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Water transferred from the Eel River and released from Lake Mendocino flows through the Russian River channel to withdrawal points in Sonoma County.Although this method of transport supports aquatic and riparian zone habitats, it is vulnerable to chemical contamination from transportation accidents where the river is in close proximity to highway 101 and Northwestern Pacific Railroad transportation corridors in locations like the canyon between Cloverdale and Hopland.The high valleys were eroded into rocky canyons for ten miles north of Cloverdale and for five miles east of Cloverdale.
Natural waterfalls and the two major dams, Warm Springs (built in 1982) and Coyote (built in 1959), have isolated anadromous steelhead from its non-oceangoing rainbow trout form above the impassable barriers.However, in 2007, the Sonoma County Water Agency completed a comprehensive re-evaluation of historical records, coupled with a 5-year monitoring program using underwater cameras at two fish ladders just north of Forestville.They found that Chinook always were, and still are, "a relatively abundant, widely distributed, and naturally self-sustaining population".The mouth is about 60 mi (100 km) north of the San Francisco Bay's Golden Gate bridge.The lower Russian River is a popular spring, summer, and fall destination for navigation and recreation.
From there the Russian River flows south, past Ukiah and Hopland, and crosses into Sonoma County just north of Cloverdale. It flows south past Cloverdale, Asti, and Geyserville. The river turns westward, where it is spanned by the Wohler Bridge, and it is joined by Mark West Creek north of Forestville, followed by Green Valley Creek to the south. In that area, State Route 116 parallels the river, bordering it past Guernewood Park and Monte Rio.