Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville, California, is the site for a scene in the 1960 novel, Stumptown Daze, where our devilish dementia patient, Walt, and his caregiver, Lani, are taking in all the fun. A lumpy kid with a penchant for chocolate and death harass the older gent with questions about the hereafter, forcing Walt and Lani to board the River Queen and seek solace upstream.
As a fourth generation City kid, this is where my parents took my sisters and me to escape the bitter July fog atop Market Street. Mark Twain’s quote still applies today: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” What a relief it was back in the sixties to know that the sun did indeed appear beyond the rainbow of Marin County’s Waldo Tunnel.
Johnson’s Beach, A Brief History:
A Russian River tradition for nearly a century, Johnson’s Beach has been a favorite summer spot for Sonoma County locals and visitors alike. Sunning, swimming and floating is as much a Sonoma County pastime as wine tasting and strolling through the redwoods. Johnson’s was started by Gertie and Ernie Johnson around 1918. A campground and rustic tent cabins were added in the 1920’s. In 2015 Claire Harris and his family sold Johnson’s after forty-eight years of management. Claire was born in Guerneville in 1920 at the west end of town on a prune ranch behind the old Cutting School. His clan also operated Rio Nido during its glory years of the Big Band and Rock ‘n’ Roll eras.