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E55 - Ocean Ridge/Gualala, California

Note: This airport used to be Q69. It was renamed in 2004.

Information verified accurate as of: March 5, 2002

The Airport


Ocean Ridge is a small, mostly deserted airport located about 3 miles from the town of Gualala on the northern California coast in Mendocino County. It is about 80nm northwest of the city of San Francisco. The airport is cut out of a forest and the relatively short runway (2500 feet) only has 2100 or 2200 feet usable because of displaced thresholds required by the tall trees at either end. No fuel or repair services are available, and there is no taxi or other transportation available. This is a perfect place to bring your bike.
 

In addition to its (lack of) length, the runway has a pronounced bump in the middle. There is no line of sight between the two ends, and no matter which way you land you'll need fairly heavy braking to avoid running off the end of the runway. The flip side, of course, is that you always start your takeoff roll up hill. Short field take off and landing techniques are recommended.
 
There is a small tiedown area with room for about nine planes. Luckily, at least when I visited in the winter, there weren't many planes there. It may be busier in the summer.
 


All services, such as they are, are on the far side of the runway from the tiedown area. You have to walk across the runway and towards the 13 approach end. There you will find a small "terminal building" with a nicely appointed pilot lounge, sofa, cot, reading material, and two very clean bathrooms.
 

Close to the Airport


 
From the pilot lounge, walk out to the main road (Mendocino County Road 502, also known as Old Stage Road) and turn left. A short distance down the road on the right is Bower Community Park, a nice place for a walk or a picnic. There is a pond with lots of ducks and geese, picnic tables, bathrooms, and courts for many sports including tennis, basketball, softball, volleyball, and horseshoes. The park is small enough that you can walk around it in about 10 minutes.
 

Far from the Airport


To get to the main town of Gualala, which is on Highway 1, you can either continue past the park on Old Stage Road, which will take you to the south end of town, or turn right at Pacific Woods Road, which will take you just north of town. Either way it's about 3 miles horizontally and 1000 feet vertically. The trip to town is easy, but the trip back to the airport can be murder because of the steep grade. Occasionally you might be able to find a friendly person near the airport willing to give you a ride, but I wouldn't count on it.
 
About 1/3 of the homes in Gualala are available for rent. The busy season is around the major holidays (like Memorial Day) and during the summer. However, I'm told that you can usually find a place to rent even on short notice, if you're willing to take a small cabin instead of a large luxurious home. There are several real estate companies in town that will help you find a vacation home to rent (or buy!). A web search will turn up several companies to call.
 


The two main attractions in Gualala are the beach and the shops. There are several miles of pristine beach within easy walking distance of town, as well as some short interpretive trails. The town also contains lots of little craft and art shops, in addition to a grocery store, gas station, video store, etc. There are many restaurants and small motels as well, most with ocean views. Stop off at Dolphin Gifts in the heart of town for area information and directions. Although I didn't have a chance to visit it, there is a major Art Center on County Road 501A/502 (Old Stage Road) just off Highway 1. Signs in the area will direct you.

Other Area Information

Gualala is located several miles north of The Sea Ranch, a heavily regulated community located on 10 miles of coast with 3,000 acres of redwoods. There are plenty of vacation homes for short or long term stays. Sea Ranch also has its own private airstrip, CA51, which is only available to owners, renters, and their guests. Check the airport regulations before flying in.

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