Early History & Geology

Town of Healdsburg
Town of Healdsburg
During the Early Days

In the age before the human habitation of this area, geothermal activity shaped the landscape, with the emergence of volcanic eruptions leading to the formation of mountains. Healdsburg’s Fitch Mountain is a small, cinder cone, (an extinct volcano that is part of the active, interconnected volcanic region that includes Mount Saint Helena in Napa County and extends into Lake County in the region of Mount Konocti.) There are many visible manifestations of that volcanic life, as in the continual eruption of the Old Faithful Geyser of Calistoga, the glass-like black Obsidian to be found in Lake County, (used throughout the region by indigenous peoples for spear and arrowhead making), the present harnessing of electrical power from the geysers, whose steam is being tapped on the mountainsides above the town of ‘Geyserville’; the old Petrified Forest between Santa Rosa and Calistoga exhibits redwood trees felled by volcanic eruption, demonstrating how the timber petrified from wood to stone by heat and ash spewed from nearby Mountian.

St. Helena

In the Mayacamas Mountains, (located 72 miles north of San Francisco), naturally occurring steam field reservoirs below the earth’s surface are being harnessed by Calpine to make clean, green, renewable energy for homes and businesses across Northern California.

The Geysers

Comprising 30 square miles along the Sonoma and Lake County border, is the largest complex of geothermal power plants in the world. They satisfy nearly 60 percent of the average electricity demand in the North Coast region from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, and accounts for one-fourth of the green power produced in California.

First Residents & Early Settlers

Earliest human activity in the area is attributed to the Pomo who came here to the river gathering reeds for basket making, digging along the banks of the river for clam shells, and fishing for salmon. Russian fur traders sailing down the coast of California in search of sea lion pelts to take home to Russia, (popularly used in the making of hats and clothing), established a fort on the coastline, and the river that runs through this area on its journey to the sea became known as the "Russian River".

In the struggle for ownership of California, and the establishment of statehood, factious groups took arms against each other, and traveled between the last, and northernmost of the Spanish Missions, Mission San Francisco de Solano (est. 1853), the site of the new Bear Flag Republic set up by insurgents, and the Russian fortress at the coast. Foot soldiers traversed this area, leaving some of their comrades buried in shallow graves along the route.

Settlers, or squatters, began coming to Healdsburg, and one, young Harmon Heald mapped out a large, Spanish style plaza for the center of the town in 1857. Today that plaza is still the hub of all activity in the area, 152 years later.

Then came the wave of visitors seeking relief from various sicknesses and ailments, traveling by wagon to the old Geyser’s Resort in the hills high above Geyserville, hoping that the mineral springs and mountain air would restore their failing health. The natural hot springs remained from ancient volcanic activity, and their presumed curing powers brought visitors from far and wide.

Russian River Resort Era

Town of Healdsburg
Town of Healdsburg
Resort Era

In the 1920’s a road was extended from Healdsburg’s plaza eastward several miles, opening up a roadway that allowed people to drive all the way to the river, to the spot where a physician named Rose established a resort he named, “Camp Rose”, and this region’s Russian River Resort era began, bringing tourists and locals alike to the beach resort for summer swimming and boating, meals and lodging.

My great grandmother, Estelle, helped to run the Camp Rose Resort, and lived across the street from its beach. The road from Healdsburg, which dead ended at Camp Rose, was eventually extended by 1935 to reach all the way around the impassable “wilds” of Fitch Mountain, opening up riverfront lots for the building of summer cabins, most frequently by residents of San Francisco, and thereabouts, wanting a restful vacation home away from the city.

And Then There Was Wine . . .

Italian immigrants brought root stock to the area and planted vineyards that did exceptionally well. Some of the original vineyards are still actively producing. During the last several decades, the growth of the wine industry has flourished. The Russian River travels through Sonoma County, where three major wine producing valleys converge as the river flows through Healdsburg. Those valleys, the Dry Creek, the Alexander, and the Russian River Valleys, all have grown in notoriety and esteem as Healdsburg has become known as a world class wine producing region, blessed with just the right Mediterranean climate and fertile soils needed to grow exceptional grapes. Healdsburg, still retaining its charming small town appeal, has now adopted a sophisticated air, as well, with travelers from throughout the world visiting to taste its wines and tour its wineries and relax and enjoy its serene natural setting.

Our Story

In 2003, Our Founder Lisa A Neisingh bought one of our riverfront cabins in Del Rio Woods, a summer home park made accessible by completion of the road in 1935, and she was determined to create an authentic, riverfront vacation experience for a new generation of travelers. Lisa wanted to share the beauty, the peace and quiet, the enjoyment of nature and wildlife, with those who didn’t have the good fortune to be able to own a river cabin of their own. She wanted guests to be able to enjoy the “feel” of earlier, simpler days, as well as the slower pace and rustic lifestyle, and to encourage our homes to be enjoyed as a place for families and multi-generational groups to gather, by including activities for every age. Inside the homes you will find an assortment of books on local indigenous culture, and life of the Pomo; and books on the river’s salmon habitat, educating guests on how salmon live, and spawn, and travel to the sea and back. There are photography books on the beauty of the region that create the desire to hike and sightsee. We provide books on bird identification and binoculars, for there are plenty to see from majestic blue heron and eagles, to ducks and other migratory birds. We offer maps and driving directions to the natural wonders of the region, from sandy ocean beaches for tidepooling, to ancient redwood groves at Armstrong Woods State Preserve. We provide kayaks for our guests to travel downstream into Healdsburg (about an hour trip), and from our decks they can observe large river fish in the clear waters below. In the winter guests can catch a first hand glimpse of migrating Steelhead Trout and Salmon, just a few feet away. They can rest under the shade of huge, ancient bay trees, or redwoods, and enjoy the peace and silence, punctuated only by the "kerplunk" of an occasional fish.

We have Seniors who notice our advertisements, and call us to reminisce about their childhood experiences on the river and at Camp Rose, and we are happy to help put them in touch again with that happy time. We also have families who’ve lost their riverfront cabins during various treacherous Russian River floods of the past, and who come to our lodges to remember how it was. We are truly blessed and happy when we can bridge the gap between those who have had the happy experience to enjoy a cabin inherited from a grandparent, and those who have no opportunity but to experience the river from a heavily trafficked public beach. We want to provide an opportunity to, for a moment, step “worlds apart” to enjoy a slice of unspoiled nature and a taste of the rejuvenating vacation pleasures of yesterday.

Town of Healdsburg

Each of our homes are unique. The Old River Lodge was built in the 1930’s, during the “Russian River Resort” era and the building evokes nostalgia with its historic charm and character, not to mention the absolutely breathtaking views (of the river valley and surrounding hills) to be had from the balconies of its 3 ½ stories. Our Riverwood Lodge sits on an unnamed lane that in the past was called Del Rio Woods – named after the popular resort that was a key player in the Russian River Resort era in the early 1900’s, second to Camp Rose. Riverwood Lodge boasts the same great river location as the resort and has an abundance of amenities to lure the entire multi-generational family to enjoy the flora and fauna of our particular area or Sonoma County.

Firefly Lodge and Northwoods Lodge also have standout scenic locations with beautiful, panoramic river views to be had from their decks and private dock and each of these homes really exude an inviting, casual elegance and charm with their “rustic” lodge-style design and décor. All of the homes appeal to the outdoor enthusiast by offering many opportunities for enjoyment of the natural environment of the Russian River and Fitch Mountain, from wildlife viewing to kayaking right outside your backdoor. And, as there is virtually no construction on the opposite banks of the river, it affords guests the opportunity to experience the unspoiled natural beauty of the area, as it was generations ago.

This region is truly a kaleidoscope of natural beauty, from its vineyards and quaint upscale township to its robust agriculture, mountain peaks, hot springs and fumaroles, redwood forests, ocean beaches, and river valleys. Here, along the Russian River where our vacation lodges are located, we place our focus on the peaceful, timeless, qualities of an unspoiled portion of the river that we love. Here we endeavor to promote the well-being of the river, of the wildlife that live here, and to provide a place in which our guests can be thrilled and touched by the majesty of the natural environment.

We Invite You To Come and Enjoy The Very Best In Wine Country Riverfront!

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