I live in a small town in northern California of about 11,000 people called Healdsburg. It has the usual ups and downs of living in such a small town, but one thing that really defines Healdsburg and makes it manageable is the Russian River. Running straight through the heart of Healdsburg, the river provides locals with something to do in the long summer, both day and night.
Having lived here all my life, I know of the flat, rocky beaches of Bammer Beach, the dizzying heights of the Camp Rose jumping rock, and the relaxing hangout spot down by Badger Park, hidden behind one of our neighborhoods. To most tourists, or people unfamiliar with the town, these names and descriptions mean nothing. It’s weird to think that something that means so much to me could have no effect on someone else. This, I believe, is what makes Healdsburg’s river so unique and special.
Just a few weeks ago, my friends and I decided to go night kayaking. At about 10 at night, the three of us left from his house, headlamps around our heads and our kayaks tightly gripped in our hands. The moment we set out, I realized how relaxing and peaceful the water was. The current was so steady, at times we would unintentionally stand still. The water blended perfectly into the black horizon, illuminating a glassy image of the small river houses along the beach. We passed through the crumpled platform, maneuvered through the plants, and glided under the Memorial Bridge. I realized by the end of the trip that in the past I had been taking the river for granted, not once realizing it was something special.
Although it has its peaceful side at night, the river comes alive during the summer days. If you think really hard, it’s difficult to find a small town like ours that has a natural source of water that is safe to swim in and convenient. Most of the locals take advantage of this aspect of Healdsburg and spend many of their summer days there. Just relaxing in the summer heat, a cold beverage in your hand, and the refreshing water is a trip away from quiet Healdsburg in itself. The river serves as Healdsburg’s oasis, a chance to escape from the tourists and personal problems.
Sometimes I picture our town without the river, and realize it would not be nearly as great as it is now. Yes, there would still be the plaza and expensive shops, but the truly special parts would be missing. For all we know, we would turn into the next “Cloverhole” or Geyserville. The river serves as the heart of Healdsburg, circulating life through our community and town.
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