When the temperatures begin to sizzle, you know it’s time to head for some cool water to take the edge off the heat. Come with us to explore some of the places where Mendocino County likes to take a dip!
The spectacular Eel River is the only north-flowing river in California and its watershed is also one of the largest. During the summer months, the Eel (as locals affectionately call it) is just the place to find refuge when summer temperatures climb. From Willits, drive east on Hearst Road along which you’ll find plenty of swimming holes. One of the favorites is out by the bridge that spans the river in Hearst. This part of the river is also a favorite with kayakers.
Farther north, off of Highway 162, which goes to Covelo, stop at Dos Rios where the Middle Fork of the Eel meets the main river. This is a great place to stop the car, unpack the picnic, and slip into the river’s waters.
Cool, cool water… that’s what awaits just northeast of Ukiah. The winter rains have filled the lake to the brim with runoff from the mountains. This inland gem is the perfect spot to spend a hot summer day. Pick a site under the trees, spread your blanket, and occasionally dip a toe–or all of you–into the lake’s cooling waters. Alternatively, bring your kayak or canoe and paddle along the shoreline to catch glimpses of the wildlife roaming the shores. Arm yourself with a fishing pole and dinner’s ready to cook!
You might think going to a hot springs on a hot day is, well, not too smart. But this hot springs resort is home to the Vichy Plunge, an Olympic size swimming pool, which is open from May to October. Its non-chlorinated waters are a refreshing splash on those days when the temps hit the highs. Of course, you can always avail yourself of a “champagne” soak in the naturally carbonated mineral baths whose water flows from 30,000 feet below the surface into a spring source and directly into 154-year old tubs. Vichy has hiking trails and its own seasonal waterfall. Whatever you choose to do, Vichy is a great place to stay, play, and relax!
The Russian River rises in the Laughlin range east of Willits and from there flows through Redwood Valley to join another fork of the river south of Lake Mendocino. The Redwood Valley fork is seasonal but the waters that run through Potter Valley are a diversion from the Eel River, which flows year-round and provides great recreational activities. From Highway 20 east, take the Potter Valley exit and in just a few hundred yards you can park under the trees and set up shop on the river bank. The more adventurous can drive through Potter Valley to Eel River Road and head over the saddle to the Eel River watershed where there are plentiful places to enjoy the rushing water.
CV Starr Center
You don’t need to be on a river or at the beach to catch some waves. In Fort Bragg, check out all the facilities and amenities at the CV Starr Center, located conveniently just minutes from downtown. The pool has a water slide (146 feet!) and a lazy river for just floating down. Ready to train? Then head to one of the eight lap lanes or practice your swan dive from the diving board! Bring the family and spend the day. Work out in the fitness center, send the kids to the skateboard park, and walk Fido in the off-leash dog park. Pick up some picnic essentials and settle in for the day with a picnic or barbecue. You can even learn to play pétanque, the French version of bocce ball.
Manchester State Park
On the southern Mendocino coast, Manchester State Park is one of the least populated beaches in the county. The beach itself, the sand dunes and grasslands make up nearly 18,000 feet of ocean frontage. The beach line curves gently to form a “catch basin” for sea debris, which accounts for the volume of driftwood found here. Five miles of gentle, sandy beach stretches southward towards the Point Arena Lighthouse. This is a great place for all kinds of outdoor and water activities. Brush Creek and Alder Creek are known for steelhead fishing; the masses of driftwood provide imagination for active minds; and bring your wetsuit for some great surfing in the bay.