The Middle Eel was way above my expectations for quality and way below my expectations for work. Easy shuttle, tons of wildlife, nobody there...how can you go wrong. On the water.
All you gotta do is find the right people to go with and it'll be flowing for a little while longer.
The first 20 miles there are way more class II drops than I was expecting, the river keeps up a good pace (at 1500 cfs) and had much less flatwater than I was expecting.
We had lunch at about mile 13, after only 3 hours on the water
Things start to mellow with longer pools for awhile, but the rapids start getting larger. You arrive at the Skinny Chutes around mile 25, and this is where I got schooled. I tried boat scouting into the drop, and with the ferry angle I chose, allowed a diagonal wave to completely grab the cataraft, shoving me left into a boat-catching eddy that I had fully neglected to appreciate on my hurried boat-scout. A few minutes of swirling around and cursing, missing my ferry angle and being shoved back into the eddy by the pillow ensued. I gave my passenger the high-side talk, mentioned the possibility of a swim, and proceeded to make my way out of the eddy. This left me boat-scouting the second half of the drop, which fortunately had a good line left of center. Whoop Whoop! Then some beautiful Scenery.
Here is the view of Coal Mine Falls' First Crux Drop
We arrived at Coal-Mine Falls downstream, and took a lunchbreak in the only non poison-oaked shade we could find. This rapid is completely hyped and is the reason many people haven't paddled this run. However it is a full-on class IV+ drop, with consequence. It had a line, but after my shaky experience upstream, my confidence was rattled, and the lack of safety convinced me that lining the cat down the right channel would be the way to go. I made the entrance move, catching the eddy right at the lip where Laura grabbed the boat...I removed the oars and tied on a rope. Then, before you knew it, 5 minutes later the boat was at the "bottom" and we were ready to roll again.
It turns out there is a whole other part of the drop downstream which I knew about, although the eddy I was hoping for turned out to be of insufficient size for the cataraft. Several scrambling moments later the line appeared to me in a boat-scouting vision of creative splendor and I managed to luckily pop through clean as a whistle. Another big Whoop! Here is looking back up at the exit to Coal-Mine Falls.
The rest of the river flows through a beautiful canyon, I'd say in summary that it gets better as you go, and at no point is it bad, in fact it is beautiful. The miles came easily and we camped at mile 17.5 where we should have.
Black Butte Store at put-in #707-983-9438 runs shuttles for only $50, call them and get on this run that you've been putting off for way too long. We saw 5 bears, 2 bald eagles, 50 deer, cormorant, ducks, wild horses, green heron, and not one person. Nuff said!