Humboldt’s three wet lagoons are great places to fish or watch wildlife from a boat. A 5-mile-per-hour speed limit for motorboats benefits wildlife, sailors, and paddlers. You can launch at:
- Big Lagoon (9 miles to circumnavigate; has the strongest winds; launch at Big Lagoon County Park at mile marker 108.3 on Highway 101 ($2); beach side is good for picnicking, whale watching, and agate hunting.)
- Stone Lagoon (4.5 miles to circumnavigate; 6-site boat-in campground at Ryan’s Cove where you can get out and explore the forest trails; launch from Stone Lagoon Visitor Center at mile marker 115.3 on Highway 101 or at the end of a short dirt road at mile marker 117.38; shore birds, river otters, Roosevelt elk.
- Freshwater Lagoon (3 miles to circumnavigate; launch just south of Orick at mile marker 118.5; close to the highway, so it has fewer mammals than Stone Lagoon, but lots of fish, shorebirds, and raptors; the most protected from strong north winds.
On the ocean side of Humboldt Lagoons, swimming, surfing, and kayaking are not recommended. Big swells, strong currents, and waves that slam onto steep beaches make it too dangerous.
Use caution on the lagoon side, too. Check weather conditions, watch out for afternoon winds, and stay out of strong currents near the mouth of any ocean breaches in the lagoons. If the fog comes in, you may need a compass to find your way back to the launch.
Another good source of information for paddlers is the book Sea Kayaking on the Redwood Coast, with chapters on kayaking in Big, Stone, and Freshwater lagoons, as well as at other North Coast locations.