John King built a small stern-wheel steamboat in 1869 and sailed it along the Russian River. Named the Enterprise, there are no known photos of the vessel but it probably resembled the Montrio (upper photo), which plied the waters as far west as the old Monte Rio footbridge. King’s little ship was fifty feet long and sat high in the water, with a draft of only a foot, perfect for the shallow stream. He carried cargo from Heald and Guern Lumber Mill (near Guerneville’s Safeway today) to the mouth of the river at Jenner. On occasion he would promote excursions, towing two barges upon which revelers would dance to live music while under steam. After several failed attempts, the Enterprise sunk trying to reach Healdsburg.
Before the railroad line was extended west from Northwood to Monte Rio and beyond, passengers would have to disembark and board the Sonoma (lower left photo), which would transport them downstream to connect with the North Pacific Coast R.R. Small sailing skiffs were popular in the early days. The ones pictured on the lower right were believed to belong to architect McLachlan of San Francisco who built a boathouse for his toys on the banks of his Octagon House along today’s Moscow Road near Villa Grande.
When the dams go up in the summer, you can still witness a sailboat or two tacking through the wind between Guerneville and Vacation Beach. With the right mixture of stupidity and liquid fortification, party animals can be seen on the back end of a ski rope as well.