The Albion River, a Flat-water Paradise Kayakers Dream About
Osprey carve smooth circles in the blue sky, the sun above their shoulders revealing targets in the pools of still water below. Sunbeams shoot across breathtaking panoramas, casting random spotlights on trees and water. Blue herons glide on gentle winds above the Albion River, against a backdrop of evergreens in the shadows of a dense forest. The beauty is staggering. In addition to the lush forest, the wildlife on the river is abundant, ranging from sea lions, elephant seals, harbor seals and otters to cormorant, eagles, ospreys, wild turkeys, ducks and king fishers.
Silence descends as you paddle upriver around
winding bends through emerald green forests, the
same forests that stood when the mouth of the river
was used to power the sawmill of a small redwood
logging town from the 1880’s to the 1920’s. Remnants
of old railroad structures that date back to the
1850’s still survive along the forested shoreline.
Nestled in dense woodlands along the Central Mendocino Coast, the Albion River is the essence of creativity and change as it empties into the Pacific Ocean near the town of Albion, California.
The river's overall direction is east to west, but it travels notably in the north-south direction as well. The Albion River lies about six miles south of Mendocino. The river's furthest inland point is 15 miles from the coast. The tidal flow of the Pacific extends five miles upriver and creates a large estuary at the mouth of the river. You can paddle about five miles upriver, until the river narrows and loses itself in a thick growth of vegetation. The farther you paddle, the more you seem to be enfolded by the forest’s close embrace, contained within it as if in some sort of magical haven.
After paddling around a few bends as you wind your way through steep walls of verdant green, past sunbathing seals and great blue herons foraging for food, you’ll glide by a two-story house floating in the water and a few private dwellings moored further upstream. Somehow they only amplify the natural beauty of the terrain.
While it looks much like wilderness, there are “no trespassing” signs posted along the way. There isn’t a building in sight, so it’s hard to figure out what harm a trespasser might do, unless they wandered onto an illegal pot farm on national forest land.
As you paddle through the picturesque river canyon past a redwood and Douglas fir forest, the navigable, tidal portion of the river winds its way from the Pacific Ocean at Albion Cove into marshlands that eventually become too shallow to paddle any further. After about 5 miles, fallen trees, shallow waters and narrowing banks block the way.
While barrier beaches block many of the rivers along the northern California coast from reaching the ocean for much of the year, the mouth of the Albion remains open. As a result, the river current is affected by the daily ebb and flow of the ocean tides. With good timing, the tidal push provides an upstream-flow that provides an easy paddling experience if you catch the tide just right. Try and time your upstream paddle with the rising tide and your return paddle with the slack or ebbing tide.