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Otter Bar Lodge Kayak School
Located in:
Forks of Salmon, CA

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Otter Bar offers all skill levels of whitewater kayak instruction based out of our wilderness lodge on California's pristine Salmo (more...)
site home  :: self guided home  :: U.S. river guide  :: California River Trips  :: Eel River California

Kayaking & Canoeing Eel River California

Upper Main Eel
Put-in:  Horse Creek
Take-out:  Lake Pillsbury
Difficulty:  Class IV, V
Length:  18 miles
Main - Pillsbury Run
Put-in:  Pillsbury Reservoir
Take-out:  Bucknell Creek
Difficulty:  Class III+
Length:  5.7 miles; longer and shorter runs possible.
Main - Dos Rios to Alderpoint
 map of Main - Dos Rios to Alderpoint
Put-in:  Dos Rios (Middle and Main Forks of the Eel)
Take-out:  Alderpoint
Difficulty:  Class II-III
Length:  46 miles; longer runs possible.
North Fork - Hulls Creek to Mina Road
Put-in:  Hulls Creek
Take-out:  Mina Road
Difficulty:  Class III
Length:  8.4 miles
Tributary - Tomki Creek
Put-in:  Hearst Road at Rocktree Creek
Take-out:  Hearst
Difficulty:  Class III+
Length:  17.5 miles
Middle Fork - Black Butte River to Dos Rios
 map of Middle Fork - Black Butte River to Dos Rios
Put-in:  Black Butte River
Take-out:  Dos Rios (Main and Middle Eel Confluence)
Difficulty:  Class II-IV
Length:  30 miles
South Fork - Tenmile Creek
Put-in:  Tenmile Creek at the gauge station.
Take-out:  Big Bend
Difficulty:  Class IV-V
Length:  16 miles
Tributary - Rattlesnake Creek
Put-in:  Bridge on US 101
Take-out:  Big Bend
Difficulty:  Class IV+ @ 400 - 700 cfs, V > 700 cfs
Length:  5 miles


The Eel River is one of the few long overnight rafting trips in California. The river is fed by rainfall, and is best run in the spring after a particularly snowy winter. Memorial Day weekend is also a popular time of year to make this trip, and by then, water levels have dropped considerably and the river has likely turned from a muddy brown to a clear blue-green with temperatures that make swimming a refreshing pleasure.

Most boaters run the four-day section from Dos Rios to Alderpoint. There is an even easier take out six miles further down at Fort Seward. There are many tributaries and creeks that flow into the Eel for most of the way down, and four days allows plenty of time to explore them all.

The old train tracks of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad run along side the river, but have been shut down since 1998. While the tracks and railroad debris occasionally detract from the pristine scenery, the tracks allow a way out of the river in case of an emergency.

This trip has great camping with wide, sandy beaches, and there are many great hikes up the side canyons to look forward to. Boaters can easily tack on more miles to this run by taking out later in the journey or adding the Middle Fork of the Eel to the trip for a 77-mile wilderness float.

The rapids on the Eel fluctuate radically depending on river levels and flows. Generally boaters can count on manageable Class IIIs, but if the CFS happens to reach 100,000 due to a big storm, many rapids turn into Class IV.