Tucked among the forests of the central Mendocino coast, the Albion River is a flat-water paddler's paradise. Winding through a lichen-laced Douglas fir and redwood forest, the navigable, 5-mile tidal portion snakes it's way from the Pacific Ocean at Albion Cove into marshlands that eventually become too shallow to proceed. An excellent stand-up paddle, kayak, or canoe adventure, the river canyon is lush, scenic, and rich with wildlife.
While barrier beaches block many of the rivers along the northern California coast from reaching the ocean for much of the year, the mouth of the Albion remains open. As a result, the river current is affected by the daily ebb and flow of the ocean tides. With good timing, the tidal push provides an upstream-flow that helps your effort. Try and time your upstream paddle with the rising tide and your return paddle with the slack or ebbing tide. Morning or afternoon winds typically blow off of the ocean and up river; paddling against the combination of these winds and upstream current could make for a long return haul.
Wildlife on the river is bountiful. You'll likely see great blue herons, kingfishers, eagles, harbor seals, deer and more. In addition to the bountiful forest and wildlife, there are some interesting if not peculiar sights along the way. Not far from the launch is a dilapidated two-story floating house, and a few additional private dwellings are moored further upstream. Interestingly, the Albion River was the site of a major logging operation from the 1880s to the 1920s. A small logging town and port was built at the mouth of the river, where it provided lumber to schooners that would transport the wood to San Francisco. Remnants of the industrial logging days can be seen upriver in the old wooden pilings that are partially submerged along the banks.
Access to the river is through the Albion River Campground, where a launch ramp is available. A popular moorage with fisherman and abalone divers, the lower stretch of the river provides protected ocean access for small-craft vessels. You may encounter some traffic near the launch ramp on weekends between April through September, but otherwise you can expect to be alone. Canoe and kayak rentals are available from the campground.
Important note: Stick to the river. The forest is private land.