Where to Stay
The Russian River meets the sea at Jenner and a
wealth of wildlife inhabits the mouth and the banks of
the river -- as it winds through the forested region
known as Russian River country. As the gateway to this
resort area and to the northern beaches, Jenner is a
handy place to stop for a meal or for gas and picnic
supplies. An enduring attraction of the town are the
seals, which mate and bring up their young on several
rocky offshore islands.
The river mouth in Jenner has a fascinating
annual life cycle. Ninety miles long with its source in
Mendocino County, the river is a rushing torrent during
winter storm periods. The mouth is closed each summer by
a sandy berm, which visitors use to walk from Goat Rock
to the north shore. The rains of fall -- sometimes with
the help of a bulldozer -- clear the river mouth again,
seals come to eat the fish and the cycle continues.
During the seal season, park rangers conduct
Bodega is a tiny hamlet just inside
Sonoma County and a mile or so off Hwy 1. Its main claim
to fame is the appearance of its old schoolhouse in
Hitchcock's movie The Birds. The village is just east of
the hamlet of Valley Ford.
Ten miles north of Jenner, a promontory
surveys the ocean and much of the Sonoma Coast. This site
was chosen by Russian fur-trading explorers for the first
permanent Russian settlement south of Alaska -- in 1812.
The explorers brought with them 40 sea otter hunters. The
Russians established a stockade fort on this point of
land and established farms. Social life here was rich and
varied. Travelers stopped at the Russian fort, which
contained a superb stock of French wines, a fine library
and imported European furnishings. But by 1841, the otter
stocks had been extinguished, and the Russians sold the
fort. Sonoma had been under Mexican control but General
Vallejo, the governor of Sonoma, demurred and the
property was sold to Captain John Sutter (of Sutter's
Mill gold discovery fame).
The state historic park at Ford Ross is
open for tours every day except for major holidays from
10:00 am until 4:30 pm. The visitor center at the park
entrance contains exhibits of Russian history, which
include artifacts from the early Russian community.
Inside the fort, a short walk from the visitor center,
the buildings of 1812 have been restored. Conducted tours
are available. Today's visitors enjoy the fruits of the
early Russian settlement. The famed Gravenstein apples of
Sonoma County are derived from seed stock, which the
Russians originally planted here. Needless to say, a lot
of apple pie is served in local restaurants, and it's
Jenner Hotels & Inns
Murphy's Jenner Inn (707-865-2377) located on
the Highway 1, is an extremely popular bed and breakfast
operation. Cottages next to the lodge have been made into
10 rooms and suites. All have private baths and most have
decks and ocean views. Several have hot tubs. Their
restaurant is a noted seafood place and has a full bar.
Just north of Valley Ford is the wonderful Sonoma
Coast Villa. This deluxe Spanish-style country inn (a
B & B) has six guest rooms, a fine dining room and
superb gardens. It's open for weekends and other days
according to the season. For historic hotel fans and
antique collectors, the Valley Ford Hotel (800-696-6679
or 707-876-3600) is worth attention. Now a B&B, it
was built in 1864.
Three miles north of Ft. Ross and 13 miles north of
Jenner, the Fort Ross Lodge (707-847-3333) has
modern, deluxe accommodation with ocean views,
fireplaces, hot tub, sauna and access to the coast.
There's a store, gas station and deli across the road.
Timber Cove Inn (707-847-3231) three miles north
of Ft. Ross, has 49 rooms on a 26-acre headland with a
fine view of the sea and the cove. The Inn is beautifully
laid out with a massive entrance room with stone
fireplace and a Japanese pond. There is a dining room
with a varied wine list and full bar.
Travelers who may wish to spend several days or a week
in the area might reserve a vacation home or cabin by
calling Sea Coast Hideaways (707-847-3278). The
people who run Timber Cove Boat Landing &
Campground also operate a reservation service for
vacation homes in the area, a good deal for anglers and
others who wish to linger in northwest Sonoma.
Twenty miles north of Jenner and ten miles north of
Ft. Ross is Salt Point State Park. This northern
beach park has campgrounds -- offering the nearest public
campsites to Fort Ross.