Big River is nice with outrigger canoe/bike rental at mouth of river at Stanford Inn. They know the tides and wind for a nice beginner paddle. Old logging river with some historic things to see. With the recent record rainfall this year, we paddled our outrigger (with foot controlled rudder) for 8 miles easy (Trip was done in May after heavy rain. Call locals for conditions/depths). Picnic and hang out, but skeeter's are fierce. Also try Navarro river 25 miles(?) south. Call locals paddling folks at Stanford Inn for other areas/times of year. River is surrounded by "state park" logging area "managed" by trust (check for camping/fire permits).
Stanford Inn has inclusive and veggie restaurant packages. Town of Mendicino is filled with East Coaster tourists and latter day hippies. Enjoy the ride.
No fees for access.
Plenty of places to put in...check for summer/fall depths.
Public/boat/beach access/parking at mouth of river.