Russian River Map
Map of Northern California’s Russian River. Photo from Wikipedia.

What happens when summer temperatures rise while you are studying English in San Francisco? You do what the locals would do: grab a friend, escape the city, and find some (cooling) nature to relax in. What could be a more perfect outdoor escape than canoeing down the Russian River?

The Russian River begins in Mendocino County and empties into the Pacific River 60 miles north of San Francisco. The lower portion of the river (closest to the Bay Area) is a popular destination during the spring, summer, and fall, when the waters are  low and safe for swimming, rafting, and canoeing.

As the beautiful river flows through different areas of Northern California, there are many places for you to stop and picnic or swim. The river is full of native Chinook salmon and other fish as well as otters, Great Blue Herons, osprey, and turtles. It is a beautiful way to enjoy nature and escape the city!

Organizing  a trip to canoe the Russian River is quite simple: several trusted companies provide affordable canoe rentals and guided tours or overnight camping excursions.

Canoeing the Russian River

River’s Edge Kayak and Canoe Trips

River’s Edge operates in the upper part of the Russian River, where there are fewer people and more wildlife. Their trips are self-guided, and before you begin your trip, the company equips you with all the necessities: plastic bags to protect your belongings, life vests, a cooler for your food and drinks, and a towel. After a beautiful day of slowly canoeing, the staff meets you with free ice cream. What a great way to end a fun day!



Photos from River’s Edge.


For more information, visit the River’s Edge website or Facebook page, and make sure to watch their short video on YouTube.


Burke’s Canoe Trips

Enjoy ten miles of the Russian River with Burke’s Canoe Trips. Although you can leisurely finish the ten-mile trip in about 3 1/2 hours, most choose to stop and swim, picnic, or relax on the many beaches, so plan for at least 4 1/2 or 5 hours of fun. Sights include the river’s wildlife, beaches, and beautiful redwood trees.

After a relaxing day on the river, Burke’s offers a free shuttle service to take you back to your car. In addition, Burke’s also offer overnight camping if you would like to continue your outdoor adventure.

For more information, visit Burke’s website.

Joe Bonamassa’s “The River”

To celebrate such a fun excursion, we are looking at the lyrics to a blues-rock song by Joe Bonamassa. Have you heard the song before? Click on the link below to listen to the song, and make sure to read the lyrics below. Do you know the meanings of the phrasal verbs that are in bold?

Down by the river
That’s where I broke down and cried
Down by the river
That’s where I laid down and diedGoing down to the river
For as long as I can stand
Mama told me “Son,”
as she took ahold of my hand“Water runs so deep,
Deep as all my pain,”
Down by the river, honey
Lord, can I be saved?

I said down by the river
That’s where I broke down and cried
I said down by the river
That’s where I broke down and cried

I said down by the river
Heartaches soaked in wine
I’m just lookin’ for redemption
For that wanderin’ soul of mine

Pull me to my knees
As I drown in the pouring rain
Down by the river, honey
I still see your face

Sometimes around midnight
They’d come knocking at my door
I said sometimes around midnight,
Hell hounds found what they’re looking for

Well those flashing lights told me
Didn’t have to say a word
Someone took my baby
Someone took away my world

All they found was a letter
I should never have let her go
The river’s the only witness
The only one who knows

And the wind whispers her name
And all the lonesome years
Water turns to whiskey
I drown in my own tears

Down by the river
I see my life in flames
Down by the river honey
I call out your name

I call out your name
I call out your name


Useful Phrasal Verbs

  • Break down: to lose control of one’s emotions.
  • Lay (laid) down: to physically place yourself down, as when you go to bed.
  • Let (her) go: to stop caring for someone; to stop having emotions toward them.

Happy canoeing to our CISL San Francisco students! If you and your friends decide to canoe the Russian River, make sure to post your pictures to our CISL Facebook page!