February 5, 2017: Austin Creek — Cazadero to Russian River confluence
7 Participants: Alan , Kate , David , Eileen , Patrick , Joan , Chris .
Austin Creek is a stretch of class 1 1/2 water which is completely dependent on rainfall that flows through a forest of Redwood trees and rustic homes along Cazadero Highway. Due to winter storms in the region, it was decided to forego the planned Russian River paddle above Healdsburg. We met at the Old Duncans Mills Grade steel bridge site over Austin Creek on a chilly, overcast Sunday morning. After scouting possible options, a decision was made to take out at Cassini Ranch, largely because it did not require a machete or a trek through poison oak. The small but intrepid group, in three canoes and two kayaks, agreed to launch at the Fire Station in Cazadero and paddle Austin Creek to land at Cassini Ranch, across from the confluence of the Russian River, approximately six river miles. There was plenty of water coming under the bridge – about 1,000 cfs. We launched on Austin Creek at 11:00 a.m. The run was through a magnificent forest of giant Redwood Trees. We encountered islands of brush and some rapids, one which required scouting from shore with a passage on the right-side. The group stopped for lunch at the confluence with the East Fork of Austin Creek. Two more more challenging sections were encountered after the lunch stop requiring maneuvering skill–narrow passages between brush with no scouting from shore required, and also one downed tree which was passed without incident on the right. At one point, Alan’s rain hat abandoned ship, but Eileen Nolan, seeing something floating in the water, recovered it. In a light, drizzling rain, the group reached the confluence at the Russian River, which was swollen to at least 100 yards wide. The brave little band ferried across to Cassini Ranch Beach and reached shore at 2:50 p.m. Upon beginning the ferry to the beach across the Russian River, Dave was overheard saying, “You just did something that very few people have done”.