Despite the economy’s ups and downs, Sonoma County’s ambitious regional parks system continues to offer an impressive array of free or low-cost activities and recreational opportunities to residents and visitors alike.
A good example: The numerous boat launches scattered in waterfront parks countywide (and able to accommodate vessels of various sizes). Boat launches are located in Bodega Bay, along the Russian River, on lakes in several inland parks, and on San Pablo Bay.
Most of the launches are free to use, although a parking fee of $7 will usually be required. If you’ll be using launches a lot — or, for that matter, visiting the parks frequently — it makes sense to become a Parks member, because free parking at all regional parks is among the many membership benefits. To learn about other benefits, or to join, visit the website.
Here’s the scoop on launches:
1. Spud Point Marina (Bodega Bay): Located on Bodega Harbor, Spud Point Marina sits at the epicenter of commercial and sport fishing in Sonoma County; it’s a particularly popular destination during crab and salmon seasons. Spud Point is the only Northern California ocean marina with no bar to transit when entering and exiting a harbor. Spud Point welcomes monthly berthers, overnight visitors, and yacht club cruises. (Map & Directions, Marina Map).
The marina’s many amenities include a free waste pump-out station, fuel dock with gas and diesel, public restrooms, 30 and 50 AMP electrical service, average water depth of 12 feet, Wi-Fi and much more. Park address: 1818 Westshore Road, Bodega Bay.
For more info, email [email protected] or phone 707-875-3535.
2. Doran Regional Park (Bodega Bay): Doran Park has a two-mile stretch of sandy beach, a popular place for visitors to picnic, build sand castles, fly kites, surf, fish, and stroll. A rock jetty at the harbor mouth provides access for fishing, crabbing, and exploring sea life.
The boat launch can accommodate boats up to 20 feet; a parking lot adjacent to the launch can handle 30 vehicles with trailers. Additional amenities include a fish-cleaning station, boat-rinsing station and picnic areas. (Map & Directions).
For more information, contact the ranger at 707-875-3540. Park address: 201 Doran Beach Road, Bodega Bay.
3. Westside Regional Park (Bodega Bay): Westside Park is ideal for fishing, with its boat ramp, boat-rinsing station and fish-cleaning station. A large vehicle and boat parking lot is located adjacent to the launch. Picnic tables and restrooms are on-site. The park is near stores and tackle shops. Marine fuel may be purchased at nearby Spud Point Marina. (Campground Map).
Questions? Call 707-875-3540. Park address: 2400 Westshore Road, Bodega Bay.
4. Wohler Bridge (Russian River): Use of the Wohler Bridge ramp and its graveled launch is only available through the purchase of a recreational fishing access permit for $30 (recreational) or $60 (commercial) with a $15 annual fee for a key issued by the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department (2300 County Center Drive, Suite 120A, Santa Rosa, Monday - Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., 707-565-2041). The key allows access through the gates to the ramp.
The launch provides for the loading and off-loading of small craft, 4WD recommended. A short portage is required to get to the river. (Map & Directions).
For more info, call the Ranger at 707-433-1625. Park address: 9765 Wohler Road, Forestville.
5. Steelhead Beach (Russian River): Steelhead Beach offers river access for small craft such as drift boats, kayaks and canoes. It is an excellent spot for birding, viewing river wildlife and for picnicking. A parking lot with 75 spaces, 5 of which are disabled accessible stalls, is located approximately 200 yards from the launch area. Amenities include a seasonal launch area for small craft (gravel adjacent to rivers edge, 4WD strongly recommended), beach area, picnic areas with BBQs and flush toilet. (Map & Directions, Park Map).
Learn more by calling the Ranger at 707-433-1625. Park address: 9000 River Road, Forestville.
6. Spring Lake Regional Park (Santa Rosa): The 72-acre lake at Spring Lake Park is open year-round and is a wonderful place to windsurf, canoe or paddle boat. Boats are available for rent from May through September from the Concession stand, located near the swimming lagoon.
The boat ramp is open year-round and can accommodate watercraft up to 16 feet in length. Boat launch is accessible from Newanga Avenue entrance to the park. U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets must be worn on the lake. No gas-powered boats are allowed on the lake. Electric motors are permitted. (Map & Directions, Park Map).
Talk to the Ranger at 707-539-8092. Park address: 393 Violetti Road, Santa Rosa.
7. Hudeman Slough (San Pablo Bay): Hudeman Slough’s boat launch allows you to explore the marshy waterways edging San Pablo Bay. This launch, in an isolated area with no services, is open year round. It can accommodate boats up to 24 feet; the no-fee parking lot has 20 spaces.
The launch is accessible to the public with a key issued by the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department; a $15 fee and an access permit are required for a key to the locked gate. To learn more about obtaining a key, contact Regional Parks at 2300 County Center Drive, Suite 120A, Santa Rosa, Mon-Fri, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., 707-565-2041.
For more information about Hudeman Slough, call 707-789-9644. Park address: 28020 Skaggs Island Road, Sonoma (Map & Directions).
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez