Explore the Outdoors of Mendocino County
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Outdoor Adventures in Mendocino County California

Spring on the Eel River

April is a beautiful month on the Eel River. 

The wildlflowers are blooming, wildlife is stirring, and water is flowing.

Wildflowers blooming along the Eel River.

The Eel River watershed is the 3rd largest watershed in California.  The Eel River is comprised of 4 primary forks.  Three of the forks travel through Mendocino County.  Most people are familiar with the stretch of the South Fork of the Eel River that flows along Highway 101 from the Leggett area to the North.

My favorite fork of the Eel River is the main fork.  The main fork originates in the mountains of Lake and Mendocino Counties.  From Scotts Dam at Lake Pilsbury, the river travels 169 miles north to the ocean.  The Main Fork of the Eel in Mendocino County does not have many access points.  Most people access its river banks from along highway 162 – aka the Covelo Road.  It has several popular steelhead fishing spots as well as swimming holes. 

In Spring, redbuds and waterfalls decorate the Eel River Canyon.

There is current legislation to establish a rails to trails along the Eel River.  This exciting project is called the Great Redwood Trail Act.  This project has the potential to open-up more recreational access to the Eel River Valley via a multi-use trail system.  The Great Redwood Trail Project is still years away from happening and has many hurdles to overcome including the forces of nature in the Eel River Canyon. 

Rails remain from the Eel River Railroad

Currently the best way to experience the Eel River Valley is by taking a whitewater trip – raft, kayak, or canoe.

Whitewater raft and kayak going down the Eel River.

This year’s April showers will make for lots of fun on the Eel River.  If you are not a seasoned whitewater river runner, the best way to check out the Eel River is to go on a guided raft trip.  Rubicon Adventures has a couple of raft trips coming up.  Rubicon offers day trips on the 7 mile class III stretch of the Eel above Dos Rios and multiday wilderness camping trips from Dos Rios to Alderpoint.  If you want to learn to whitewater kayak or do a multiday kayak camping trip, Liquid Fusion Kayaking teaches whitewater kayaking and guides kayak trips on the Eel.

Liquid Fusion Kayaking teaches classes and guides whitewater kayak trips on the Eel River.

If you are a seasoned river runner, check out the California Creeks Website for beta on the different runs on the Eel.  Also please keep in mind - most of the land bordering the Eel River is private property.  The property owners value their privacy and hiking away from the river’s edge is not advised.

Cate Hawthorne