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Jenner - California

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Where to Stay | Camping

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 seal-watching excursions.

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.

Fort Ross

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 highly recommended.

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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.

Camping

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.

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