Ever since my first trip to the gorgeous Mendocino Coast last year, I’ve wanted to go back and start to get Chico into canoeing and kayaking. Catch a Canoe on the 1 just outside of Mendocino city, seemed perfect for this as they have kayaks, outriggers which can’t be tipped, as well as Canine Cruisers. They are right on the Big River which is 8 miles long, and has no motorized boats. I also wanted to go back and really explore the coastal bluffs, the Mendocino and Fort Bragg area are very dog friendly for the most part, dogs are allowed on the Coastal Trail, but not in the woods in State parks.
When I booked a camping site at Van Damme State Park for a couple nights in late May, the forecast was sunny for Weds and Thurs, and I thought I would take my time getting there, set up camp, relax after a stressful month, and wake up early and go canoeing Thursday morning. As our special luck would have it, the forecast changed to rain on Thursday, overcast on Weds. So we drove 3 hours straight to Catch a Canoe, and asked for an outrigger cuz no way did I want to go in the drink in 55 degree weather with no sun. Previously I thought about renting a Kayak, but didn’t since it was Chico’s first time, and I wasn’t sure how he would react, and also didn’t want him to get wet and hate it…well some things can’t be avoided lol.
The staff was super nice, and perhaps amused that I didn’t want to tip over and get wet lol. After suiting up in our PFDs, they took us to the dock and pointed out the different canoes and kayaks that a solo person+dog might want to rent. They also helped us launch, and were very friendly towards Chico. They also look for your return and help you to dock and exit the boat.
On this here first trip, Chico just mostly wanted to stare at me, and he also wanted to sit in my lap. Until I decided to wave and chat with some other kayakers on the river, and Chico decided to jump overboard! It happened so fast! I’m so glad we had the Ruffwear Float Coat, I was able to just pull him back in the boat by the handle on top, as he was of course panicking a bit and flailing. He has gone swimming many times, but I don’t think he expected it here.
He also immediately got super cold, and his teeth were chattering really bad. So I pulled an emergency blanket out of our dry bag, it just happened to be in my backpack. We still had the boat for 2 more hours and I didn’t want to turn around! He warmed up pretty quick with the blanket!
The Big River is a calm river, great for relaxing. There are little spots along the way where you can stop and picnic. There is also a beach across the river from Catch a Canoe where you can launch your own kayak or canoe. Some people also play fetch there with their dogs. I can’t wait to come back. I grew up on the Great Lakes in Michigan, and really missed being on the water. I loved this trip so much, and the bond it created with Chico and I, that I bought an Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak off of Amazon on sale for $49, and I can tell you that at full price of $70 it is still totally worth it We have taken it a few times to lakes in Eldorado National Forest, and it has already paid for itself.
I was worried about Chico’s nails perhaps puncturing the kayak, but so far they have been fine, even when standing on it.
I decided that since Chico likes to be close to me, that kayaking was better for me and my dog than canoeing or SUP, And got the inflatable kayak first to make sure Chico liked it, before investing in my dream kayak The Old Town Dirigo.
What surprised me was just how much Chico loves kayaking, and what a good first mate he is! If we come near rocks or shallow water he stands on the bow and looks intently at them, he also has great sea legs, and even naps out on the water. When the boat is beached, he constantly tries to get in it. It will take us a long time to save for a new “used” kayak, but we will enjoy this one until we do!
If you would like to get kayaking or canoeing with your dog, I can’t recommend Catch a Canoe enough! Besides being super nice and helpful and in the perfect setting for learning pups or experienced pups, they are really affordable! 3 hrs $32 for each adult, or $45 all day
Open Everyday 9AM to 5PM
Closed Thanksgiving & Christmas