Big River Maru
Above the water line are the remains of trestles and dams, and below the water line is the Big River Maru, a steam-powered paddle wheel barge. Its dimensions were 18' wide by 48' long. The Maru's primary function was to facilitate the movement of floating logs to the mill on Big River flat.
Sawn redwood logs, which were floated down river, accumulated behind the “boom” (dam). Here the logs were lined up and tied together for their trip down river to the mill. During an outgoing tide, the Maru would tie onto the log raft and maintain tension to keep the raft centered on the river. This was done during the day or after dark with no lights other than the stars or moon. There were two Marus used on Big River between 1902 and 1938. The boiler from the first Maru is still visible on the sand just north of the boat launch. The remains of Maru #2, along with two lighters or barges, are at mile 1.5 on the north bank.
Singing Fish: More than a Legend
Newcomers to Mendocino and Big River often hear about mythical singing fish. “Oldtimers” used to tell stories of eerie sounds coming from the log booms at night, groaning, non-human “hums.” We researched these claims and found that until the early 20th century locals did know about singing fish, and in September residents traveled upriver to listen to eerie humming and buzzing sounds. The fish began singing about midnight by the old boom, four miles upriver. Nathanial Smith, who lived on Big River off and on for over 50 years, explained it this way, “Those men folks, they're court'n the ladies. They's sing'n for their favors.” As it turns out, the sounds are made by the male midshipmen fish, Porichtys notatus. Although these fish are no longer reported to be heard in Big River, Catch A Canoe can play you a recording by request.