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The mouth is about 60 mi (100 km) north of the San Francisco Bay's Golden Gate bridge.
The lower Russian River is a popular spring, summer, and fall destination for navigation and recreation.
The high valleys were eroded into rocky canyons for ten miles north of Cloverdale and for five miles east of Cloverdale.
After establishing a connection to Clear Lake, the Russian River was beheaded from Clear Lake by a slide (at Cow Mountain, east of Ukiah). Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo and his expedition may have made it as far north as the Russian River in November 1542, before storms forced them to turn back south towards Monterey.
The authors found historic information dating to 1881 suggesting the presence of an ancestral population, and their genetic analysis found the Chinook both above and below barriers to fish passage to be of native, and not hatchery stock.
In 2001 the Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) had dwindled to less than four returning spawners per year.
These low numbers were the catalyst for the Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program, a recovery effort in which offspring from hatchery-reared adults are released into the river system.
In 2011, biologists estimate that more than 190 adult coho may have returned to the Russian River watershed, beginning with early storms in October and peaking in December.
Until recently, most reviews indicated that Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) were always scarce on the Russian River.Water transferred from the Eel River and released from Lake Mendocino flows through the Russian River channel to withdrawal points in Sonoma County.