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Published on May 21, 2024
Russian River Beach Shuttle Service to Ease Parking Woes Starting Memorial Day WeekendSource: Google Street View

Good news for summer fun-seekers planning to hit Russian River beaches – the Regional Parks River Shuttle is back, offering a cool ride between popular spots starting Memorial Day weekend. According to officials, this summer staple kicks off May 25 and aims to ease traffic and parking woes that typically plague sunny weekends. Departing from El Molino High School on Covey Road in Forestville, the shuttle will ferry folks to and from Steelhead Beach and Sunset Beach river parks for a breezy $5 round trip, according to a statement obtained by Sonoma County Regional Parks.

David Rabbitt, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, is stoked about the service, saying, "The River Shuttle continues to provide a fantastic way for locals and visitors to beat the summer heat and traffic while enjoying our Russian River beaches.” Children under 18 ride for nothing, making it a budget-friendly option for families. The shuttle service, featuring air-conditioned, ADA-accessible, and eco-friendlier vans, will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays until Labor Day – when the sun sets on another season.

With cars routinely circling for parking, resulting in emissions from idling, Supervisor Lynda Hopkins hailed the shuttle as a respite for the lower river area. She told Sonoma County Regional Parks, "It cuts neighborhood traffic jams and emissions from idling cars circling for parking and improves community river access on busy weekends.” Park entrances can reach capacity and close on peak days, but the shuttle circumvents this headache. From July 1, be ready to shell out more for parking at both beaches, with fees climbing from $7 to $10.

For river rats averse to littering, R2T2 River Rentals offers float tubes for rent at Steelhead Beach – a new offer this year. Vacationers can snag a tube online via R2T2's website, making their river float downstream with a lighter environmental footprint. Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker said, "Summertime on the Russian River is a cherished tradition for Sonoma County families. The shuttle makes visiting our most popular river beaches more convenient and accessible for all."

Those opting out of driving can count on Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) to connect to the shuttle. SMART's train to the Sonoma County Airport Station links up with a service that'll get you to the summer shuttle, and bonus – SMART is treating senior and youth riders to free fares. Information on the shuttle, including a route map, is up for grabs on Sonoma County Regional Parks' website, along with details for commercial shuttles and charter buses, which are restricted from parking at the river beaches during shuttle operations, except at Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach. These larger vehicles can book their spot with C3 Transportation, though a call two days before is necessary.

Visit the Regional Parks website for full details on the shuttle service's route and schedule and how to score tickets in advance. Then, get set to soak up some sun and make some waves.