Updated: April 13, 2006
Rafting the Eel River in California
The main Eel is one of the few long overnight rafting trips in California. The flow depends on rainfall and runs during the winter, spring, and early summer. For most of the run, the river follows an old railroad track, but the scenery is good. After rainstorms, the water is muddy, but during the late spring and early summer, when the rains have ceased, the water becomes a beautiful greenish-blue.
The main fork of the Eel River is usually run from Dos Rios to Alderpoint or 6 miles further to an easier take-out at Fort Seward. This run usually takes 4 days and allows time to explore the great tributaries and side creeks that flow into the Eel the entire way down. The Eel could be the longest continuous run in California for an advanced group of boaters. Starting at Estelle Creek on the Black Butte River, then continuing on the Middle Fork of the Eel and down the Main Eel all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The last part of the run from Fort Seward to the Pacific is mostly flat, but adding this stretch can easily turn the Eel into a 10-day wilderness run.
The Fort Seward take-out has the best gauge for the run since it gives the cumulative flow from Dos Rios down. The Middle Fork gauge does not give an accurate picture of the Main Eel run since there are so many tributaries adding water along the way.
For more information and pictures of the Main Eel, check out CaCreek's descriptions and photographs.
See Allaboutrivers.com for more details about rafting the Eel River.
The shuttle is long and it is highly recommended to hire a shuttle. Gloria at Eel River Shuttles 707-926-5252 is a great driver or you can try the Alderpoint General Store 707-926-5408. The rate in 2002 was $135 for a full shuttle from Dos Rios, or $60 for half shuttle where you pick up the driver in Alderpoint. Shuttle drivers change often in this area.
To Dos Rios (put-in): To reach Dos Rios, from highway 101 head east on Covelo road. Go 16 miles to a bridge where the road crosses the middle fork. There is a parking lot near the bridge and where an old road leads down to a gravel bar on river left. It is nearly impossible to drive down to the gravel bar, so plan on carrying your gear.
To Fort Seward (take-out): From put-in go back to 101 and head north. Take the exit towards Garberville/ Redway and turn left onto Redwood Drive. Take a right on Alderpoint Rd. After 18 miles, you will have to turn left to stay on Alderpoint Rd. Stay on this Road to get to the town of Alderpoint where there is an alternate take-out. Otherwise, stay straight on Alderpoint Rd. which turns into Fort Seward Rd. and takes you to the best take-out.
There are no known outfitters on the Eel at this time.
Friends of the Eel River can be located at http://www.eelriver.org and they put together private trips to teach people about the river and river conservation.
Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.
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