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Outdoor Adventures in Mendocino County California

The Wet and Wild Winter of 2019

Winters in Mendocino County seem to have 2 personalities -

Dry and Mild and Wet and Wild.

This winter has definitely been of the wet and wild persuasion. As of the beginning of March, areas of Mendocino County have had between 30 and 50 inches of rain. This last storm was a real gully washer. The rivers flooded their banks causing highway closures of Highway 128 along the Navarro River and Highway 1 at the Garcia River. The run-off of the Eel River and Russian Rivers created disastrous flooding downstream in Humboldt and Sonoma Counties.

Flooded Eel River.

Photo by June Ruckman

The Noyo River was over 10,000 cfs (cubic feet per second). That is a lot of water and current. Tragically, the Trek II - a 54 foot charter fishing and whale watching boat broke free of its moorings and washed out into Noyo Bay. Once in Noyo Bay, the southern winds and storm swell washed it ashore just below Noyo Headlands Park requiring an extensive salvage operation.

Charter Fishing Boat the Trek II washed on to the rocks in Noyo Bay.

With all of the rain, the soil is saturated resulting in landslides and down trees. If you go hiking or mountain biking in the forest, definitely be prepared for trees to be down on the trails. It is going to take a while for the trail crews to get things cleaned up.

The Winter of 2019 started off with several large wave events. Usually we get at least one storm that brings in waves that are over 20 feet. We have had at least 3 winter swells of over 20 feet this winter. The power of the ocean when it reaches this size is awesome! You can hear and feel it a mile away. Taking a closer look is nothing short of awe-inspiring. At Liquid Fusion Kayaking, we call these days “Cave Making Days.”

Large winterstorm surf hammering the Mendocino Coast

Extreme high tides and large swells combined with saturated soils have resulted in significant coastal erosion. A new sinkhole has been reported by the Point Arena Lighthouse and several other sinkholes are reportedly sliding and becoming larger. One sinkhole is the Sinkhole Cave in Noyo Bay (referred to by the city as Skip’s Punchbowl).

For more about how sea caves are made and photos and videos of recent coastal erosion, check out this post on my Woman on Water blog - Sea Cave Making.

Winter is not over yet. March and April can be quite rainy and wet. Usually our heaviest rains occur between December and February, but I am not sure if there is a usual anymore. We will just have to wait and see what mother nature has in store.

When you are out and about, definitely exercise caution on the coastal headlands as this wet and wild winter has created areas of instability. In the forest - watch for down trees and falling limbs especially as we head into spring which is usually a windy time of the year. On the water - expect down trees and strainers in the rivers, logs jammed in sea caves, and rock falls along cliffs and in sea caves.

Cate Hawthorne