Valley Ford Hotel
14415 Highway 1, , Valley Ford, California 94972
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At peace in Estero Americano
Travel Tips for Valley Ford
A 12 mile round trip
The Estero Americano is 6 miles long from the put-in point to the Bodega Bay. I didn't have time to do the full length, but I made it this far. When I got home, I saw on Google Maps that I made it about 3/4 of the way, so about 4 miles downstream. It took me roughly one hour to get to this point. A kayak should take less time, since a kayaker has twice (or four times) as many paddle blades as a stand up paddler. I will come back soon and do the full 12 mile round trip.
Carry water and snacks (or a lunch) with you. There are no bistros, pubs, wine bars or watering holes along the way.
These bovine residents are more numerous than the two-legged types. The main industry around the Estero is dairy. Both sides of the Estero are lined with grazing lands. Potato farming was also common from 1850 to 1950. Together, the potato farms and grazing led to soil erosion, which caused about 1 million cubic yards of sediment to be dumped into the Estero, forever changing the habitat. As a result, marshlands were reduced, and many species of fish can no longer survive in the Estero. Efforts are underway to manage the habitat, but it may never be restored to its original state.
You might not see another soul
This is so off the beaten path, you may not see another soul. There is no major city close by. San Francisco is at least 1-1/2 hours away. Santa Rosa is 30 minutes away. Bodega Bay, which is six miles away, with a population of 1,400 is the closest "metropolis", but most people there are golfing or hanging out at the beach or playing bridge in their house on the fairway. They aren't cruising down the Estero. When I was there on a Saturday, I came across only 7 kayakers. Which was just dandy as far I was concerned.
VT's One and Only Valley Ford Page (So Far)
Valley Ford is a tiny town (population 60) on the way to Bodega Bay from Petaluma. It has far more cows than people. What is the attraction about such a cow town? There is a very good reason to go here, if you have the right form of transportation.
Just to the west of town is a put-in point for a kayak or a stand up paddleboard (SUP). This point is known to locals but not advertised and there is no signage, so if you want precise directions, just send me a note. From this point, you will enter the Estero Americano, a wonderland of wildlife. Six miles downstream is the Bodega Bay. (Think "The Birds" and Alfred Hitchcock.)
"You start here"
The put-in point is a narrow creek, which is quite shallow at low tide. No whitewater experience is required. Just make sure you wear footwear that won't get sucked off in the mud while you or launching or pulling your kayak or board out of the water.
"And then it becomes this"
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