The unhurried stretch of the Russian River downstream from the Sonoma County town of Healdsburg is a DogTrekker’s delight, especially when you’re floating along in a dog-friendly, custom-made SOAR canoe from Russian River Adventures. Rock-solid and easy to maneuver, these sturdy, inflatable craft are as much fun for your dog as for you. A full-day, 9-mile paddle takes anywhere from three to five hours, depending on how long you linger at swimming holes and beaches along the way.
Paddlers are asked to keep their dogs in the boat for the first 10 minutes or so as they (and you) adjust to being on the river. After that, both people and pups are free to swim and romp on shore. A shuttle bus meets paddlers and pets at the takeout for the trip back to the starting point, where another round of fun begins.
How so? For starters, dog-friendly Healdsburg welcomes pets at top restaurants like Barndiva and Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar, as well as lively brew pubs like Bear Republic and casual spots including Healdsburger, where you can chow down on burgers and fries on the outside patio while your tired pup chills at your feet. Scores of dog-friendly wineries are within easy striking distance, including several right on the town square.
Dog-friendly lodging choices are many, ranging from budget options like L & M Motel to downtown’s luxury Hotel Healdsburg and H2 Hotel, to the nearby Best Western Dry Creek Inn. If a vacation rental with kitchen is more your style, check out the inventory of dog-friendly vacation homes maintained by Russian River Getaways in Healdsburg and elsewhere in Sonoma County.
In preparing for your paddle, remember to pick up picnic supplies (note that no Styrofoam coolers are allowed on the river) and pack plenty of drinks and sunscreen. A doggie life jacket is a good idea, as even dogs who swim a lot may not know how to deal with current. If you can swing it, come midweek, when you can enjoy a beach all to yourselves. Dogs sharing SOAR canoes with their people ride free midweek through June with a discount code DOG10TREK18, otherwise, the fare for four-legged passengers is $10.
Photo Credit: @romeo_d_gold