Experience the magic of bioluminescent plankton
By Sarah Amador
Is seeing a wonder of the world on your bucket list? If so, head to the Russian River Estuary in Jenner to experience the magic of bioluminescent plankton for yourself. Few places in the world host such high concentrations of this beauty. The Russian River Estuary is one of these! It’s best to kayak in the water at night under the new moon. Like Merlin stirring a magic potion, you can swirl your paddle in the water to create a sparkling glow reminiscent of the Milky Way.
Once a year, in late summer, a phenomenon occurs on the coast when the bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton bloom. On nights when the full moon is not shining, you can see them at the beach in the waves and in puddles you make with your feet. The bioluminescent plankton also flow into the estuary from the ocean. When you move through them or “wake them up,” the plankton give off bursts of light that look like glow sticks or sparkle like stars. They also attach to reeds and wildlife. Imagine basking in your own personal fireworks show, as hundreds of glowing fish dart under your kayak! Some adventurers may even spot the “ghost seal” lifting its head out of the waters.
I’ve been lucky enough to experience this magic many summers in a row. Last weekend, I went out with friends to play in the greenish glow. I’m happy to report that this year is twice as good as I’ve ever seen it! My friend reported it was one of the most amazing experiences she’s ever had—and I agree with her. Experiencing the glowing plankton has been one of the top highlights of my life.
If you have a kayak, you can launch at the Jenner Visitor Center around 8 p.m. You can also reserve a glowing plankton night tour with WaterTreks EcoTours in Jenner (http://www.watertreks.com or 707-865-2249). (The eco-friendly tours provided by this kayak outfitter are so spectacular that they have recently been featured by Horizon Airlines in their inflight magazine.) WaterTreks will supply you with outerwear and a dry bag.
Hopefully, the bloom will hold until October. But really, the best time is now, before the full moon arrives. When you go, be prepared to embrace the kid in you—it’s impossible not to exclaim and giggle at the amazing sight.
Have fun, fellow Sonoma and Napa County adventurers! And check that item off your bucket list, as “been there, done that!”