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Russian River

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The Russian River is a summer resort and wine area in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties in Northern California, popular for canoeing, trout and salmon fishing, tubing, beach activities, and wine. The main resort towns on the river are Healdsburg and Guerneville, which since the 1970s have been a popular family, wine enthusiast, outdoorsman, and gay-friendly resort area.

The Russian River boasts has a number of fine vineyards, with a specialty in Pinot Noirs. Wineries in the area tend to be smaller and more laid-back than in other parts of Sonoma, and neighbouring Napa.

Russian River between Monte Rio and Duncans Mills

Guerneville[edit]

Guerneville hosts two weekend-long music festivals on Johnson Beach each summer, a Blues Festival at the beginning of the summer and a Jazz Festival at the end. The Vineman and Barb's race start in Guerneville during July and August. These are qualifier races for the Ironman Triathlon that occurs in Hawaii.

Many visitors rent canoes at locations a few minutes upstream of Guerneville (for example, Mirabel Beach in Forestville) and spend a day paddling downstream, through calm water as well as mild rapids, stopping at beaches and enjoying the occasional rope swing, ending the day in Guerneville, where a bus takes them back. You can also rent canoes and/or kayaks at the Monte Rio beach and in Duncans Mills.

Monte Rio[edit]

Monte Rio hosts the best Fourth of July celebration in the region. With BBQ's, live music, water parade, and fabulous fireworks display -- it is a must see experience. The town also hosts an antique auto show, easter egg hunt and numerous seasonal activities. Monte Rio is also home to the only movie theatre in the Lower Russian River Region.

Duncans Mills[edit]

Duncans Mills hosts a rodeo as well as Civil War re-enactments throughout the summer. It is also know for its shopping village.

Villa Grande[edit]

Villa Grande is a quiet hamlet along the river. At the Fourth of July the neighbors host a local Bring Your Own Picnic and historical cannons are fired at the end of a Minute Man parade.


Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

  • The nearest international airport is in San Francisco.
  • The closest airport is Charles M. Schultz Sonoma County with nonstop service to/from Seattle, Los Angeles, and Portland(starts Oct 28, 2007) [1]

By car[edit]

Russian River is about one hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge on Highway 101. For most resorts, exit 101 at River Road, the first exit after Santa Rosa and head west (left). Forestville is 9 miles out, Guerneville is 13, Monte Rio is 17, and Jenner-by-the-Sea (where the river empties into the Pacific) is about 22 miles. For less crowded stretches of river, continue north to Healdsburg and beyond.

By bus[edit]

Golden Gate Transit route #80 brings passengers from San Francisco to Santa Rosa in 2 to 3 hours, depending on time of day. Get off at Santa Rosa's transit mall downtown. From there, Sonoma County Transit routes 20 and 22 offer service to western Sonoma County, including Guerneville and several other points along the Russian River.

There is no train service (at least not since the 1930s).

Get around[edit]

  • Drive River Road along the river from Forestville to the Pacific Ocean (and on up the coast).
  • Sonoma County Transit offers limited shuttle runs between Guerneville, Monte Rio and other points.
  • Hitchhiking is still socially acceptable in this area, but exercise caution and good judgment.
  • Or rent a canoe or inner tubes and float downstream.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Harp seals basking in the sun at the mouth of the river, in Jenner-by-the-Sea, during the spring and early summer months.
  • 4th of July Boat Parade, fireworks, and water-spray-theater spectacular, on Monte Rio beach. Local stores and families decorate canoes and boats as floats and drift pass the crowd to patriotic music from a boombox. True Americana.
  • Korbel Champagne Cellars tour (see Drink section below).
  • Movies at the Rio Theater, a World War II-era quonset hut that has been converted into an independent movie theater. Local legend has it that the fabric adorning the ceiling is from Christo's "Running Fence" exhibit that crossed Marin and Sonoma counties in the 1970s. When the river floods, this theater does, too. Located at the intersection of Bohemian Highway and Highway 116 in Monte Rio.


Do[edit][add listing]

  • Hike in Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve [2]
  • Kayak along the river
  • Visit wineries, and bring a picnic. The wineries along the Russian River make some fine pinot noirs, zinfandels, and viogniers.
  • Russian River Sisters bingo! [3]

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • 5 Seasons Resort & Spa (The Spa at 5 Seasons), 14880 River Rd | Guerneville, CA 95446 (From San Francisco - 101 N to River Road W.. 14.5 miles on right side of road), 707-869-8139, [4]. Well known throughout the region for their luxuriously intoxicating wet salt treatments, the 5 Seasons Day Spa is attracting discriminating spa guests from all over the world. The Wet Bliss Diva Seduction "...will leave you feeling reborn" declares SF Magazine (Best of Edition). It is a treatment that leaves you pleasantly intoxicated and sensually aroused. You can always tell the Diva patrons as they often cannot find their wallet or are found sitting in the gardens with a happy smile on their face. The Wet Salt massage is a must for any savvy spa-goer. Make sure someone else drives you home or stay the night.  edit

Guerneville[edit]

Shopping in Guerneville is like walking back in time. With ecletic shops, art galleries, wine cellars, and antique stores you are sure to find what you are looking for. The 5 & 10 Store on Main Street sells treats, candies, games and more. At Etc. Etc. you’ll find one of a kind items from around the world.

Groceries can be purchased at the local farmers market, organic food store or Safeway. Every weekend sports a small flea market and local artists can be seen all over town.

Monte Rio[edit]

Monte Rio has minimal shopping, though there are shops with works from local artists around The Rio Theatre and a wine and cheese boutique with an extensive collection of limited production local Sonoma Wines. You can also buy groceries, get a haircut, and some minor hardware items along Highway 116 and at the Bohemian Highway.

Duncans Mills[edit]

Duncans Mills is the antique and eclectic art shoppers paradise. It is a must stop and shop destination. The quaint shopping village has everything from antiques to river gnomes.

Wines[edit]

The Russian River area is well known for it's wines. You can find numerous local wineries offering free tastings all over the area. Go to Wine Road to find a complete listing [5]

Eat[edit][add listing]

Heading East Along the Russian River....

  • Berry's Market in Forestville, just before the Hacienda Bridge on River Road, makes good sandwiches for picnics on the beach.
  • Russian River Pub on River Road between Hacienda and Guerneville serves great pub grub with a view of the hills from its outdoor patio.


On Main Street in Guerneville...

  • Russian River Inn is a diner famous for its Swedish pancakes. Another diner, Pat's, serves a conventional diner menu during the day but hosts a contemporary Korean pop-up kitchen Hi Five four nights a week.
  • Boon Eat+Drink on Main Street in Guerneville is a modern Californian Bistro specialising in local ingredients, and local deli Big Bottom Market serves a set menu on Wednesday Nights.


West of Guerneville..."

  • Cape Fear diner in Duncans Mills offers innovative and surprising meals in a range of styles from down-home to nouvelle cuisine, and The Blue Heron features regular local live music in a buzzing environment and a dining room serving traditional bar food.


  • Rivers End in Jenner is expensive, fine dining, with great views of the sunset on the Pacific Ocean.

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • Korbel Winery, in Guerneville, for their free tour, and tasting.
  • Rainbow Cattle Company, a popular gay bar on Main Street in Guerneville.
  • Pat's, a popular dive bar on Main Street in Guerneville.
  • Stumptown Brewery, a microbrewery with small pub kitchen and a deck overlooking the river on the Eastern edge of Guerneville.
  • The Blue Heron, downstream in Duncans Mills, is a good bar and eatery that features live music outdoors on weekend afternoons in the summer.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • The Jenner Inn, in Jenner-by-the-Sea, provides a range of accommodations, from relatively inexpensive cabins ($130) to luxury suites ($300+).
  • 5 Seasons River Village Resort and Spa, [6]]14880 River Road, Guerneville. tel: (+1) 707 869 8139 (fax: {+1) 707 869 3096. email: mailto:info@5seasonsresorts.com) Home of The River Bliss a warm water, wet marine salts, and essential oils spa treatment. Resort consists of onsite cottages priced from ($99) to luxury eco-friendly vacation homes in the surrounding area ($300+). Pets welcome, and eco-friendly.

Get out[edit]

From Jenner-by-the-Sea, escape north on Highway 1 as it winds its way up along Russian Gulch Beach, Fort Ross (where Russia maintained a trading outpost and fort in the early 19th century), Kruse Rhododendron State Park, Gualala, and points beyond. The road is curvy and often runs with no guard rails high above the rocky coast—not for the faint-hearted or those prone to car sickness.

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