• Activities:

    Kayaking, Swimming

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

Beach
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Scenic

Kayak or canoe the Big River estuary. There is Easy access and canoe rental options so you can hit the water.

The Big River estuary in Mendocino Headlands State Park is one of those best of both worlds scenarios where dense Redwood forest and fresh, lazy river water meet rocky beaches and the mighty Pacific. If you're really lucky, you can swim with river otters and harbor seals at the same time. Paddle up the river and pull over to explore the Redwood forest - there are plenty of small trails winding on either side of the river. About a half mile up the river there are some cool islands and channels to paddle around.

Start your kayak adventure at the launch point on South Big River Road off of Highway 1. If you need gear, stop by Catch-a-Canoe and they'll hook you up with everything you need to enjoy the river safely. They have kayaks and Polynesian style outrigger canoes that are just what you need for a leisurely river cruise.

For a wide selection of food and beer to refuel after your river adventure, make the short drive into the town of Mendocino and start the evening at Patterson's Pub, a locals' favorite.

Photos: jar (), Derrick S,JD Lasica , Gunter Waibel, Mateo Williford ,dirtydog2003

Pack List

  • Kayak or canoe if not renting
  • Water friendly clothing
  • Layers
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We rented Polynesian style canoes from Catch a Canoe. Wonderful people at that shop, highly recommend renting from them and getting the outrigger canoes! The river was absolutely gorgeous, we saw a seal, 4 river otters, and tons of birds! This is such a great half-day activity in Mendocino, and a must-do if you're in the area!

7 months ago
7 months ago

Just beautiful. Call ahead (or consult a tidal map) to figure out ideal timing. The first eight miles of river are tidal, so you'll want to leave at low tide to have the incoming high tide help carry you upriver.

almost 3 years ago
almost 3 years ago

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