Eel River (Pillsbury Run)
|Stretch:||Elk Mountain Road bridge to Eel River Road bridge|
|Difficulty:||class IV- at 4k-5k cfs|
|Distance:||8.8 miles, 1 day|
|Flows:||200 - ?000 cfs. Current dreamflows gauge|
|Gradient:||23 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Before Elk Mountain Road bridge|
|Take-out:||right bank before Eel River Road Bridge|
|Shuttle:||14 miles, mostly dirt road, good though|
|Season:||spring and fall, from dam release, winter by luck I guess|
This run looks like extreme cake at low flows, but I admit I was a bit nervous approaching it at some unknown multi thousand flow. Online and in Stanley/Holbek it says it is class V at this flow. This seemed to be an exaggeration or maybe just out of date. Whatever the reason, the river was much more big class III to a few possible class IV. All but one rapid was very straight forward and easy to read. Some rapids were scouted because we knew there was a big one coming, to our surprised it was behind us already. Be wary of large holes at this flow, all are easily avoidable except on Dennis the Mennis. At our flow, the run only took about an hour and a half to paddle, not bad for eight miles and only 23 feet per mile gradient.
- The first mile and a half of this run go quick but are easy. There are multiple fun
play waves (at least Diane made them look fun as I only had my creeker). Be
aware of the ever present willow danger which is throughout the entire run.
- Half way through this mile the fun begins.
Would be Boulder Bar 1 (III+).
Would be Boulder Bar 2 (IV-). These two rapids are large wave and hole trains. Don't remember much about them. One was much longer than the other, not sure which one. Both were easy to boat scout and read and run. The second one at this flow is only a little bit above Dennis, so don't swim. Perhaps it is for this type of reason that the guide books give it a high rating, swimming would be miserable, so don't do it.
- Dennis the Menace (IV+). I reluctantly give this rapid a plus even though I
shouldn't in my mind. The rapid is entered on the left. Middle right has a large
hole which stopped Brian. Cut in behind the hole to avoid the monster person
eating hole covering the bottom left half of the river. In extreme cases a sneak to
the EXTREME left is possible. Instead just run down the tongue to the right of
- Diane Surfs, I Scout (III). In my defense I only scouted this because we thought
Dennis was still below us, whoops. There is a hole on the left of center that can
be run, then just run out the waves. Behind the right side of the hole are a few
rocks and some willow tips. You can also sneak down the right side of the
entrance, go around the willow tips and rocks, and exit on the right riding out the
waves. Diane surfed the hole at the top, so it is for sure runnable.
Big Tongue (IV-). A very large tongue on the left of the river is best run center of right. The left side enters a munchy hole or eddy thing. Center and right flush right through. For sure an impressive rapid, made me squeal like a school girl, but what's new.
- Flat but quick water to the end. Countless creeks enter from either side, very pretty.
Take out: Take Highway 101 to 20. Follow 5 miles to Potter Valley Road, turn left onto it. Follow for about 6 miles to a little store and gas station and turn right on Eel River Road. Follow up the grade, at the top turn right on the cut-off road, follow down and over the river, park on the right in the big gravel lot.
Put in: Follow Eel River Road up from the take out for about 30 minutes to the small town. Turn right at the stop sign just over the small creek. Follow said creek and put in on the left before the bridge that crosses the Eel.
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