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Good canoeing again on the Russian River.

Good canoeing again on the Russian River

It's a classic place for family canoeing: the wide, mild-mannered, not-too-cold Russian River, just an hour and a half north of San Francisco.

But in recent years, the river has suffered some highly publicized problems. In 1985, the city of Santa Rosa illegally dumped partially treated wastewater into its waters. In 1986, there were devastating winter floods.

Flood damage is now pretty well taken care of, and the river is running clean again--with assurances from water officials that the isolated illegal dumping will not be repeated. Now's a good time to get back to the Russian. And as busy as this river can become some summer weekends, you can still find a peaceful spot to see a great blue heron, watch a turtle sunning, or pull up and picnic on sandy bank.

More places rent canoes (we list them on page 52). One outfitter also offers "minnows" --short, stable kayaks with cockpits big enough so the pilot can get out easily. After a 30-minute lesson, we found our minnows great fun and easy to handle on this slow-moving river--even by 13-year-old first-timers.

If you plan a long paddle, start early to avoid facing predictable afternoon winds as you paddle downstream. Respect private docks and beaches. By late summer, the river can get quite shallow; check with your outfitter about water levels.

The season runs from about April 1 to October 1. Call ahead to reserve a canoe.

With all rentals, life jackets and paddles are included. Bring sun protection, drinks, lunch. One canoe can carry an ice chest and lunch, plus either two or three adults or two adults and one or two small children. Area code is 707.

Burke's Canoe Trips, 8600 River Road (at Mirabel Road), Forestville (off State 116); 887-1222; open 9 to 6 daily. Canoes rent for $25 per day for unguided trips. The most popular route takes you 10 miles (4 to 5 hours) downriver to Guerneville. A free shuttle departs every half-hour from the Guerneville pull-out. You can buy ice and pop at Burke'; campsites cost $10 and up per night.

California Rivers, 10070 Old Redwood Highway, Windsor (off U.S. 101 a mile north of the Windsor exit); 838-7787; 9:30 to 5:30 daily except Wednesdays and Sundays. Canoes rent for $30 per day, minnows $15; a refundable $150 deposit (credit card) is required for either. Employees help you secure your craft atop your car for the short trip to river's edge. Owner Ann Dwyer also offers half-day classes in novice kayaking ($35) and guided wine country touring in minnows ($29 per half-day) from Healdsburg to Hop Kiln Winery or Hop Kiln to Wohler Bridge. Call for class dates, reservations.

Trowbridge Cannoe Trips, 20 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; 433-7247; 8 to 6 daily. The largest operator, Trowbridge rents canoes ($32 per day) for unguided day trips on nine stretches between Cloverdale and Monte Rio; shuttle ($1) is available for trips starting at Healdsburg and upriver. The two most popular runs: Asti to Alexander Valley Campground, Alexander Valley to Healdsburg; each takes 4 to 5 hours. Hourly canoe rentals ($6) from 10 to 6 daily at six sites: Healdsburg Memorial Park, Mirabel Trailer Park and Camp, River Bend Campground, Johnson's Beach in Guerneville, Monte Rio Beach, and Casini's Campground at Duncans Mills. Overnight trips are also available.

Photo: River broadens past beach crowded with umbrella-shaded sunbathers; buoys mark off swimming area

Photo: At riverside checkout, instructor (left) acquaints novice with minnow and twin-bladed paddle

Photo: Old yellow school bus now shuttles canoeists back upriver after taking Burke's day trips. Trowbridge also buses for same trips: see list
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:May 1, 1988
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