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Traveling Canine

Russian River With Rover

by Sharon Miller

portugese water dogs photo

Alert: Since writing this article, we found out that Salmon Poisoning in dogs can be common in the Russian River area. For more informatioin about Salmon Poisoning, click here.

You don’t have to be a Portuguese Water Dog to enjoy northern California’s Russian River area, but if you have a water-loving dog (or any other kind), you should definitely bring him along when you visit this scenic redwood area. Located about 200 miles or 3 1/2 hours north of the Monterey Bay Area, the Russian River is a great vacation spot, and also a wonderful pet-friendly place to explore with Spot.

Starting in Healdsburg and meandering thirty-three miles through a beautiful forested river valley, the Russian River gently passes by and through the small Sonoma County resort towns of Forestville, Guerneville, Monte Rio, Cazadero, and Duncan Mills, before finally making its way out to the great blue Pacific Ocean at the small town of Jenner, by the sea.

A great way to experience this peaceful river is by watercraft, and fortunately a few of the rental companies here let you take your doggie pal with you. Perhaps you and your canine buddy would like to float comfortably down the river in a silent inflatable canoe from Russian River Adventures out of Healdsburg, with plenty of opportunities to stop and swim or have lunch.  Further down the river you can check out Russian River Outfitters in Duncan Mills, where you AND your dog are welcome to rent their stable sit-on-top kayaks and enjoy spotting harbor seals and ocean birds. For this end of the river it is recommended that you purchase a floatation device for your dog, and that you are aware that typical trips can take up to two or three hours.
canoe Places to access the river without a boat include Steelhead Beach in Forestville and Healdsburg Memorial Beach. Both beaches allow dogs to wade into the water, but on leash only. The best place for your water-loving dog is at Monte Rio Beach, where there is a huge area for dogs to be off-leash on the down-river side. Doggies can also romp and play on the large grassy area next to the Monte Rio Theatre here. Just across the river in Monte Rio is the historic Village Inn, surrounded by towering redwoods. The Inn has appeared in many movies and serves a variety of food, wine, and microbrews on its large outdoor dining deck overlooking the river. The Inn has very comfortable rooms, a large lawn area, and is very pet friendly. Although the ocean beaches along the coast are too dangerous for swimming, several of them, including Schoolhouse Beach and Portuguese Beach, are wide, sandy, and somewhat protected----and dogs are permitted on six-foot leashes.

I first learned to swim in the Russian River some sixty years ago, but since my little terrier, Sparky, doesn’t really care for the water, we prefer to hike.  Not to be missed here is Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve near Guerneville.  Dogs on leash are welcome on the roads, in the picnic areas, and in the campgrounds, but not on the trails. Actually, the road is like a trail, so Sparky doesn’t mind at all.  The beauty of the reserve is but a remnant of the ancient redwood forest that covered much of this area at one time. The park is still magnificent and awe inspiring however, with trees over 1000 years old and 300 feet tall.
Remember to keep in mind that as in most wild places in California, including the Russian River, fleas and ticks are prevalent.  Be sure to use a commercial or natural preventive product and check your dog carefully after a day in the forest or along the river. 
A number of restaurants and wineries in the area have patios where dogs are welcome, but be sure to call ahead as owners and policies can change.  Here are a few suggestions to whet your appetite:  Cape Fear Café in Duncan Mills, serving Cajun; Village Inn Restaurant in Monte Rio, serving American cuisine with a view of the river; Main Street Station in Guerneville, serving up pizza and jazz; and Russian River Pub in Forestville.
And enjoy Indian and Tandoori food at Sizzling Tandoor in Jenner. A sampling of wineries includes Arista Winery, Russian Hill Estate, and the Mutt Lunch Winery who have been combining their passion for wine and “all things dog” for the past fifteen years.

The Russian River offers a long list of available pet-friendly lodgings, ranging from cozy inns and cabins to house rentals. There are also luxury resorts, RV parks and beautiful places for tent camping. 

Russian River Getaways has only one vacation rental out of nearly one hundred that doesn’t permit dogs!  Check their web site for cabins, lodges, and houses with one, two, or even more bedrooms, some with a hot tub, pool, fenced yard, or beach: www.russianrivergetaways.com.

For that special occasion, there is nothing better than the 5 Seasons River Village Resort & Spa in Guerneville, a gracious eco-certified establishment with magical gardens and a reputation for catering to canine companions.  Would you believe food and water dishes, pet beds, and the Pampered Pooch Day Spa!

If you are a camper, Casini Ranch Family Campground, situated on a mile-long stretch of the Russian River in Duncan Mills, offers both tent camping and full RV hookups. Schoolhouse Campground in Guerneville is tent camping only, but boasts that it is located in a redwood canyon across from a private beach and next to the Korbel Champagne Winery.

For more information about this delightful area, go to www.russianrivertravel.com/dogs.htm.

Well, gotta go. Sparky and I are rushin’ back to the Russian River!


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