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Betsey Bourbon

Rollin' on the river: Kids and water--the perfect combination on a hot summer day. Johnson's Beach has all the needed props for a fine outing.

Totally Tubular

JOHNSON'S BEACH, that sweet little stretch of land alongside the Russian River where it doesn't cost a dime to park, lay out your bod, or dip your toes. Johnson's Beach, where you can while away the day simply by trailing your fingers in the water from the comfort of a warm inner tube; can flex your knees in a rented paddleboat; can test the laws of physics in a hired canoe.

Johnson's Beach, where a dam is erected to slow the river's flow from May to October. Johnson's Beach, where there is a wading pool carved from the river's banks for toddlers and indolent adults to use. Johnson's Beach, where a buck fifty buys the kind of hamburger that's deliciously thin in a particularly American way.

Johnson's Beach, where the beer on tap is still $1 (though the microbrew is a respectable $3), where smaller children can run freely up to the snack bar and purchase ice cream or pink popcorn unmolested or can visit the restrooms by themselves. Johnson's Beach, where you can bring your own picnic as long as you clean it up. Johnson's Beach, where you can listen to the best live jazz in the North Bay, boogie to the blues, or sweat out the Vineman competition. Johnson's Beach, where the voice of Clare Harris, the fraternal co-owner of the property with his brother Herbert, booms over the P.A. system, stopping little ones, teens, and older folks in their tracks.

"No rock throwing!" he warns. "Please stay off the ropes!" he reminds. And everyone does. Purchased by the Harris brothers in 1967, and run by various generational members with help from Clare's wife, Carla (she'll rent you your tube and refill your cup), Johnson's Beach has some 300 parking spaces and plenty of inexpensive ($10-$12 per night) camping allotments, and even
cabins. You don't need a reservation to drop by Johnson's, you don't need a dime in your pocket, you don't even need a swimsuit.

All you need is respect for your neighbors (the edge of the towel is the edge of their property), respect for the environment (pick up that wrapper), and respect for Harris' authority. He's never once yelled, "No having fun!" We doubt he ever will.

Johnson's Beach is in downtown Guerneville (follow the signs). The dam is erected, and the rentals and kitchen are opened about the second week in May. Johnson's closes for the season in mid-October. For details, call 869-2022.

[ MetroActive Central ]

From the March 26-April 1, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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