Mendocino, CA -- Main Fork of Eel River

I just ordered an Alpaca Packraft and am planning to make several short trip down the main fork of the Eel River this winter, then hike back out via the old railroad track. Anyone interested in joining me?

I finally made that trip into the Eel River Canyon. I had strapped in a pretty big backpack, with a few items that I was not too keen on losing (gps and cell phone), so was intending to avoid all major rapids, and I knew there would only be one, but I did not know exactly where. That rapid came upon us suddenly and was completely unavoidable. Even though my large backpack was not ideally positioned in the boat and was throwing my balance off a bit (I fixed that later), and even though the rapid took me straight into the wall of a large boulder jetting out into the river, I managed to not go under. We rafted in seven miles and saw a bald eagle, a herd of wild pigs, etc., camped the night, and hiked out along the railroad tracks the next day.

The raft really was so light carrying out, and even with the helmet, life jacket, sleeping bag, water, un-eaten potatoes, and a beautiful rock that I found (oops, didn’t mean to carry that), I was not that sore the next day. And I’m just a 5’3" girl :slight_smile:.

I’ll try to post pictures.


Nice write up. Do you think this is doable with a bike?

I was thinking of doing this with a bike too. There are quite a few roads that come down to the river that I was looking at. Download a USGS map for Spy Rock from the USGS website for free and check it out. I want to put in near Dos Rios and take out just after Spy Rock on river left. It was somethin like 14 miles to highway 101 from Spyrock Rd. there on a bike. Might have to hitchhike because a shuttle would be close to 40 miles from Dos Rios. Public transit could be an option too. The busses go through Laytonville. Let me know if you’d be down to run it. Greendreamn says the rivers low right now and it would be slow goin but I really don’t mind. I’d be willin’ to do a longer section too.

was this the middle fork, somewhere in between black butte and dos rios? where the river cuts way far away from any road? i am itching to get back and run this section. gearing up for a spring trip there if you want to go back.

I have done the bike shuttle 3 times from Alderpoint to Dos Rios or Alderpoint to Covelo…it’s a very long bike ride!! I’ve ended up hitching rides partway every time. From Alderpoint to Dos Rios I went on river left with a short run on Hwy 101 (at around 3 AM, no cars), and for the entire run I went on river right, both on seldom-used back roads with long stretches of dirt. Used a road bike once, and ended up with lots of punctures: I had to bite my patches in half to make more patches . I’ve always looked at biking the railroad tracks with a rail bike, but they’re washed out at several places, and there’s a long tunnel on the Main Eel stretch that would be a difficult walk around in poison oak if the tunnel was blocked by rubble (I’ve never checked), as well as multiple very dicey railroad bridges that are partially washed out.

The whitewater is great–there’s a class V and a few class IV’s on the middle fork stretch, and Island Mountain Falls is a III on the Main stretch. If you google a photo of it it’s easy to stop before the rapids walk around them if that is your desire. Very secluded, except for the cattle on the Main stretch…Just beware of upstream winds near Alderpoint if you’re in a hurry–the water flattens out and your pace will slow near the end.