beautiful photos above were taken by Sam Mills.
"Marcie and Sam live in Cloverdale, California in
the heart of the Sonoma County wine country. They
have spent over thirty years together roaming
Northern California in search of adventure.
Along with kayaking, their hobbies include
mountaineering, caving, cycling, fly fishing,
photography, wood-working, and wine."
Buy Kayaking California's Flat Waters
Big River Unit of Mendocino
Headlands State Park
The Big River Unit of Mendocino Headlands
State Park is an extraordinary place of gentle tidal
flows, mist-laden redwoods, and obscure
marshes located in Mendocino County. Big River is
41.7 miles long. Its watershed covers an area of
about 7,400 acres and comprises some of the best
timber ground on the planet, extending from the
mouth of Big River to 800’ elevation inland ridges.
Big River is the longest undeveloped estuary in
northern California, and was rated by the U.S. Fish
& Wildlife Service as one of the top four conservation projects under its jurisdiction.
headwaters are 31 miles inland from the Pacific
Ocean in the Mendocino Range, part of the California
Coast Range. The lower portions of the river pass
through Mendocino Woodlands State Park and the Big
River Unit of Mendocino Headlands State Park before
reaching the mouth of the river at the Pacific
Ocean, just south of the town of Mendocino. In 2002
the Big River wetlands was added to the Mendocino
Headlands State Park creating a huge wildlife
corridor which joins varied coastal and inland
habitats into the largest section of connected
public land completely within Mendocino County.
Big River headwaters doesn’t get many
anglers, even though is a great fishing spot
for 22 fish species including coho and steelhead
salmon, bocaccio, starry flounder, Pacific halibut,
Pacific herring, eulachon, buffalo and prickly
sculpin, and 7 species of surfperch.
The 8.3 mile long Big River Estuary
is a water passage where the river meets the ocean,
allowing the tide to meet the river current. Being
tidal, Big River's lower four miles provides a
delightful flat water paddling adventure.
Open: Boating is allowed daily year-round,
In any season, a
visit to the Mendocino Headlands State Park will
provide a memorable experience. Whether you visit in
the spring to see the wildflowers bloom, or paddle
on a crisp fall day, paddling Big River’s tranquil
waters rejuvenates the powers of solitude and
Fees: There is no day use fee.
There's a wide,
well-maintained old logging hiking trail that follows the
right bank of the river for man and nature live in
harmony. Mendocino Headlands State Park
features miles of hiking and biking trails that wind
along the cliffs. Kayaking, canoeing, and SUP
boarding on the Big River is a must for anyone who
loves paddling in nature’s beauty and the outdoors.
Big River's tidal estuary connects to Mendocino Bay.