Ecotourism is, by its simplest definition, “tourism to places having unspoiled natural resources.” Other aspects of ecotourism include “Voluntourism”, birding (birdwatching), tidepooling, wildflower and plant identification hikes, horseback riding, bicycling, kayaking, and docent-led ecology tours.
(Stewards) is a non-profit organization that partners with the Russian River Sector of California State Parks to support volunteer, education and stewardship programs. The sector includes Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve and Austin Creek State Recreation Area in Guerneville, Sonoma Coast State Park from Bodega Bay to Jenner, and the Willow Creek watershed.
Stewards develops and coordinates tours called EcoAdventures in the Russian River District among the Redwood forests and on the Sonoma Coast. Groups can book private naturalist or docent-led hikes. Special EcoAdventure Packages are also available for groups, including kayaking, birding, tidepooling, and star-gazing. Reservations at least 2 weeks in advance are recommended.
The public is also invited to participate in Docent and Community Education Programs, including Whale and Seal Watching, Tidepooling, theme-based hikes on the coast and through the redwoods, and ecology tours.
Since 2012, Stewards has been directly responsible for operating Austin Creek State Recreation Area, located adjacent to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, which was threatened with closure due to lack of state funding.
Armstrong Redwoods SNR is 805 acres of old growth redwoods with ADA hiking trails and Fife Creek meandering amongst the biggest trees in Sonoma County. A visitor center welcomes visitors at the park entrance. There are lovely nature trail signs and interpretive panels throughout the park providing park visitors with information about redwoods ecology. Ridge trails take visitors into the Austin Creek wilderness.
Austin Creek SRA is a 5,700 acre wilderness area comprised of oak woodlands and chaparral, as well as the headwaters of East Austin, Fife, and Gilliam creeks. It offers back-country hiking with panoramic vistas of the coastal hills and Russian River Valley. It includes 23 car camping sites, 3 wilderness backcountry sites, 20 miles of hiking and equestrian trails, and prehistoric sites dating back 4,000 years. Camping reservations can be made for Bullfrog Pond Campground at www.hipcamp.com. Some sites can be reserved in advance, while others work on a first come, first serve basis.
Sonoma Coast State Park is comprised of over 10,000 acres and over 20 miles of magnificent coastline including the Willow Creek watershed. The park is actually a series of beaches separated by rock bluffs and headlands extending 17 miles from Bodega Head to Vista Trail, 4 miles north of Jenner. The park includes over 19 miles of trails. Stewards is responsible for keeping the Visitor Center open at Jenner by the Sea, staffing it on weekends and most weekdays. Volunteers also work on restoration projects in the Willow Creek watershed, supervising trail maintenance throughout the area. Beachcombers, fishermen, sunbathers and picnickers can access the beach from more than a dozen points along the coast from Hwy. 1.
Whale Watch began as a response to the public’s growing concern and awareness of the fragile relationship with the dwindling population of remaining whales and also as a celebration of one of nature’s grand events – the annual migration of the Pacific Gray whale. The whales begin their journey at their summer feeding grounds off Arctic waters of the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. They travel down along the Pacific Coast to their winter calving lagoons off Baja California, Mexico. The whales return after breeding or with their young via the same route, usually closer to shore with the mothers on the outside and the calves closer inland for protection. Groups of 10 or more can book private naturalist or docent-led Whale Watch programs.
Sonoma County’s largest harbor seal rookery can be viewed at Goat Rock State Beach. Pups are born in March and April and reared through the summer months. Docents are available on the weekends March through September for seal watching guidance. Special docent-led viewings can be arranged upon request.
A variety of paddle adventures are offered along the Russian River and in the Jenner Estuary. Learn about the natural and cultural history of the area. Observe river otters and marine mammals as they frolic in their natural habitat. View a variety of bird life (including nesting osprey and blue heron). Enchanting full moon paddles are especially popular. Paddling adventures are offered during the spring, summer and fall. Kayak rentals are available through WaterTreks.
A variety of hiking adventures are offered at Armstrong Redwoods, Austin Creek and Sonoma Coast State Parks. Enjoy old growth redwoods, oak woodlands and magnificent views of the Russian River and coastal areas. See and learn about the wide variety of local flora and fauna. Hiking adventures are offered year-round.
Our coastal tide pools are teeming with intriguing intertidal life. Roving naturalists are available at specific beaches on low-tide weekends to safely introduce visitors to these fragile wonders. Tide pool adventures are offered on low-tide weekends during the spring, summer and fall.
Interested in volunteering for a project in one of our State Parks while visiting this beautiful area? Voluntourism packages are being developed with local hotels. Spend half a day removing invasive plants, working on a trail or cleaning up our beaches. Voluntourism packages are offered year-round. Available programs include, but are not limited to:
• Pinniped Monitoring Program
• Marine Debris Monitoring & Beach Cleanups
• Seabird Protection and Monitoring Program
• Trail Crew (Coast and Redwoods)
• Willow Creek Restoration