The Gualala River

Gualala River

We have been helping people get out on the Gualala River ever since 1994.  We think that it is a magical place and we have been delighted to see that every single person who has had the opportunity to experience it has agreed with us.  Local residents swim, fish, picnic, kayak, and canoe the river and sometimes we just sit next to it and watch the birds and animals go about their daily lives.  Visitors from the urban jungle are awed by the serene beauty of pristine waters flowing through a magnificent redwood forest with a sprinkling of colorful wild bird on the riverflowers scattered here and there. Children of all ages are fascinated by a mother duck teaching her brood how to dive for food, a river otter swimming across the expanse of water, a fox peering out from the grass, a curious squirrel chattering in an overhanging tree, a kite snagging a fish right out of the river and flying back to its nest, a passing deer, an eagle landing on the beach, and so many other scenes that are no longer a part of most American's normal routine.

The river is important for geological reasons.  Part of it follows the San Andrea's Fault which cuts off that chunk of the continent that is very slowly moving north along the coast of California.  (If we wait long enough the geologists tell us that we are going to wind up just off shore from Alaska.)  Somewhere just north of us in the spider web of faults far beneath the surface of the earth was the epicenter of the earthquake that destroyed San Francisco in 1906.  After the city was destroyed, building materials were desperately needed and loggers intensified their harvesting of the great northern California redwood forest.  During that period this part of the great forest was heavily cut.  A large lumber mill was built where we launch our boats today and lumber was the mainstay of the local economy for quite a while.  Fortunately, the company that still owns much of the forestland has adopted management practices that have permitted our forest to regenerate itself.  Today, there are very few signs of man along the way and it is extremely easy to see your surroundings as the forest primeval.  It is no wonder that the Gualala River has been designated a recreational element in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Canoeing on the Gualala River

We love children and do our level best to help parents get their kids out on the river - sometimes in their own boat and sometimes in their parents' boat.  Depending on the age of the child, this river can be something straight out of Disney or Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn or maybe even Northwest Passage.  Just up river from the bridge there is a magnificent old wildflowerlog jutting up out of the river with a deep part of the river below it.  The side of the log has been worn smooth by bare feet.  Up past that, at the confluence of the north and south forks of the river is the rope swing.  (If you don't have children of your own, our advice is to think seriously about borrowing kids from a neighbor so that you won't feel self-conscious about using the rope swing.)  We should probably also tell you that the river starts out cold at its headwaters, but is usually nice and swimmable when it gets down to the swing and the log.

There is a lot of history associated with the Gualala River.  Native Americans used the river in many different ways.  Russian and Aleut fur hunters unquestionably visited.  Doghole schooners used it as a refuge from heavy seas.  Lumbermen worked here.  During prohibition, "the mob" even had a hideout just up the north fork a ways past the swing.  Jack London fished here and probably conceived story lines while he was waiting in the old hotel in Gualala for the mouth of the river to open so that the salmon could come into the river.  Festive parties were organized on the river and we still do that today from time to time.  We have arranged parties, team building adventures, school outings, weddings, and sometimes, if the conditions are just right, we organize a moonlight flotilla.  That even awes us and we've done itbefore.

otters on the Gualala River
Photograph by Steve Wilcox

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"Love is the river of life in the world." ~ Henry Ward Beecher


The Gualala River
Two Microclimates | The Redwood Forest | Wildflowers on the River | The Sand Dunes
Seasonal Weather Patterns | Seasonal River Patterns


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