The last two times we’ve been to Doran Beach on Bodega Bay, it’s been high tide with huge waves. While not great for beach walking, it’s great for water and people watching. Surfers have been out in force.
We tried to walk the weekend after surf-watchers were knocked out at the Maverick’s surfing championship near Half Moon Bay. And last Sunday, we went the day after people rushed to the beach to get washed away with a tsunami set in motion by the Chile earthquake. No such luck.
We parked at Bird Walk parking lot a half mile from the beach. (Directions below). This is part of the Sonoma County Regional Park system. There’s a steep paved path to the levees and an easier zigzag grade for wheelchairs.
On February 14th with so little beach available we looped around the abandoned ponds, a .7 mile walk. (The current ponds for water treatment are across the stream.) We sat on a bench and watched the birds. Both times we walked over the newish bridge crossing Cheney Gulch and then to the beach.
Last Sunday, as we crossed the stream populated with a couple of Western Grebes and a Common Merganser, we heard a clatter from the marsh near the harbor. A couple of hundred Brants (migrating ducks) were yakking away, probably about when to make the trip back to the Arctic. We’d not seen the wetland and marsh so full of water or birds before.
We headed south to Bodega Bay on the dirt and gravel path, crossed the road and a potholed parking lot. There’s a very thin ‘trail’ marker to a path that leads over the dune to the beach.
When we got to the beach, we could see it had recently been covered with waves, right up to the beach grass. The beach had been scoured clean, with only a few strands of grass littering the wet sand.
The waves were big (not a surfer, I can’t gauge, but 3-5’ for the breaking ones near the beach) The surfers were in areas farther west than usual. A boogie board rider, in front of us, repeatedly twisted and turned in the shallow water.
The beach is usually quite deep with plenty of room to walk or to play. From Bird Walk to the breakwater entrance to the harbor is 2 miles. We tried walking for a while, but turned back due to lack of beach and walked along the road. This sandy path was not as loose and ankle challenging as I thought it would be – or has been in a drier season.
We decided to sit on a bench overlooking Cheney Gulch and the Cheney Marsh.
When we first sat down, we noticed many egrets feeding along the stream’s edge. They moved off and the coots took possession of some logs. One of the Grebes had his head tucked in as if sleeping, but we could see he was paddling hard.
Then we noticed the grasses were gone and the coots were isolated and surrounded by water. I thought high tide had passed, but it was rising.
Then it fell in a huge slump. A great deal of water vanished in a short time. It made it easier to understand how massive and quick a tsunami can be.
The Brants were now stranded in the marsh. They took off in a flurry to shallower water, where I assume the feeding was better. They seemed to just scoop their beaks in the water. A quarter of a mile away, their flight was incredibly loud due to the large number of wings rapidly beating against the wind.
A small group of willets, a long-beaked shorebird, meanwhile pecked in the marsh and were quieter than the herd of Brants as they periodically took off for better feeding ground.
Speaking of food…
See you on the trail!
Pictures by Mike Millar
Directions: From Santa Rosa, head out Hwy 12, the Bodega Hwy. After passing through the town of Bodega (you could stop at the Landmark Gallery), take a right (head west) on Hwy One. After passing, the road to Doran Beach, mile marker 9, crossing Cheney Gulch and across from the solar emergency phone, is a sign on your left for Bird Walk, Sonoma County Regional Parks. Turn left. If you’re coming south on Hwy One, it’s at the south end of the town of Bodega Bay and before Doran Beach.
Other Beach Access: Enter at Doran Beach. The first 2 parking lots on the left are used mostly by surfers. The lot after that and most of the other lots have a large bathroom building, picnic tables and bbq grills.
Wheelchairs: Probably you can get up the ramp at Bird Walk and go around the dirt and gravel path on the levees. Also you might be able to go down to the bridge and travel on the path through the marsh. Across from the first RV campground is a platform, overlooking the beach. It’s accessible, unless the sand has blown over the deck. At the very end of the Beach, some of the picnic tables have wheelchair access.
Bathrooms: At most of the parking lots the bathrooms range from porta-potties to shacks to huge concrete buildings.
Other stuff to do here: Surfing, kite flying, camping (tent and RV), boat launch, (Coast Guard station), tables and grills at the very end. People fish and crab off the breakwater.
Cost: Day use is $7, camping is more. Check out Doran Beach or Bird Walk, Sonoma County Regional Parks.
Dogs: On a 6’ leash. There’s plenty of them.
Food: We’ve not solved the coffee issue here. We used to stop in Bodega, but the place has expanded. I find success in coffee places is not always to the customer’s benefit. Last Sunday, we’d brought snacks to tide us over. Two weeks ago, we tried Bluewater Bistro on the golf course. The view was great, the food isgood. The Tides view and food are good. But we weren’t into the expense.