Big River Estuary (Big River Unit, Mendocino Headlands SP)
7,400 acres of the Big River watershed were purchased in March 2002 in a campaign of national scope, and this land will shortly become California’s newest state park. In the meantime, it is attached to the Mendocino Headlands State Park as the Big River Unit. A logging road follows the river for many miles, making for a pleasant walk or bike ride.
Walk or ride your bike past the first gate. The road is mostly level, with gentle hills along the edge of Big River for the first seven miles. You’ll pass an abandoned quarry in the first mile. At 4 ½ miles, there’s a small laguna at Dry Dock Gulch where you’ll find wood ducks, blue herons, and other birds. At 6 ¾ miles, the road forks at the 7-Mile Y. If you stay right, you’ll come to Big
River in another 1.2 miles – this stretch is lined with huge blackberry bushes in late summer. When you reach the river at this point, you’re at the end of the tidal estuary (8.3 river miles). If you go left at the fork instead, you’ll come to Lily’s swimming hole in another 3 ½ miles of double- and single-track path.
If you’d like a more adventurous climb, there are numerous side trails all along the way. The area between Big River and Little Lake Road is filled with logging roads and other trails. Since Little Lake Road is about 600 feet higher in elevation than Big River, virtually all of these side paths and roads require a significant amount of climbing. A good starting point for climbing is the side road at Dry Dock Gulch.
Access: go south on Highway One past Main St, and turn left on the north side of the Big River bridge – the sign says “Big River State Beach”. Go down the hill, and bear left (east) to the gate. 707-962-0470 or 937-5804