Changing Gears: Sonoma Coast Survey

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The Russian River in Sonoma County, California, has entertained everyone from Russian trappers to California ranchers to gay summer refugees from foggy San Francisco. The site of the southernmost Russian settlement in the Americas, Fort Ross, is just to the north, giving the Russian River its name.

Ivanka, break open the beluga! We’re not in Irkutsk anymore:

The Fort Ross compound
The Fort Ross compound

Things didn’t work out so great despite having started in the auspicatory year of 1812 (one of the cannons at the fort even came all the way from the Battle of Borodino–which we now mostly associate with the 1812 Overture, so popular on the Fourth of July many doubtless think the cannonfire was meant to be the British). However, they did hold out until 1842, just a few years before the Mexican-American War completely shifted the destiny of the Pacific West.

Once the Americans showed up, the Russian River region became a major logging area for the nascent boomtown of San Francisco. Almost every redwood you see (with the exception of Armstrong Redwoods in Guerneville) is second-growth, even these fine specimens on the Fort Ross Stage Road to Cazadero:

Spira Memorial Grove, Fort Ross Road
Spira Memorial Grove, Fort Ross Road

Nowadays the region is great to see some fantastic views of the coast with very little development given how close you are to the Bay Area.

The Sonoma Beaches and Goat Point
The Sonoma Beaches and Goat Point

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Sean Ketchem Avatar

About the author

I’m Sean Ketchem, living in Berlin with two passports, two cats, and a fascination for history and culture.

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