Tuesday, May 31, 2011

North Fork Eel River, Day Three...and then some!

We had hoped to make it to the confluence with the Main Eel, but our late departure from camp on day two left us a couple of miles and one big gradient section short of the confluence.  We had already scouted out the "Breakfast Rapid", the night before and with one more river level scout of the top, we decided she was good to go.  We then routed the run-out section and were stoked to have gotten our day off to such a great start.

Warner Sticks the Breakfast Boof

Immediately thereafter, the river's character changed to a wide gravelly class II run. 

We made quick time down to the Main Eel...where we were surprised to see a group of rafters, the first people since Kettenpom Store that we had run into.

Warner Stoked to be at the Confluence

Beautiful Confluence, looking up the North Eel on the right, and Down the Main Eel on the left.

I'll be honest, I haven't ever paddled the Dos Rios to Alderpoint section before, always afraid of endless flatwater and boredom...well immediately upon my arrival, halfway through the run, I was taken by surprise at the abundance of great playspots and fun big-water feel of the river. (we did have ~7,000 cfs at this point).  I now unconditionally recommend this section and can't wait to return and run it in its entirety!

Eel River Country

Did I mention the playspots?  I was wishing I had my playboat as I took this photo!

Oar-Frames on the Eel

Island Mountain Rapid comes before the actual Island Mountain tunnel, although its pretty obvious that you are approaching a larger drop..It had an entrance rapid that the rafters elected to scout, while we simply bombed through and continued to blaze down the river like we do.

Warner sets the Eel River Ablaze, Island Mountain Rapid

The scenery was beautiful, it was crazy to see the faulty railway which some people are still trying to keep going (pipe-dream), and some all around backcountry goodness...the best description of the railway I have heard yet is "looks like a roller-coaster in places"...here I am, in front of the Island Mountain Tunnel, having the time of my life!

Downstream of Island Mountain, where the river makes a monstrous horseshoe, one more big rapid awaits!  
Kekawaka Falls was more fun than Island Mountain at this higher level, although an active slide on river left gave it the feel of an entirely new rapid..one thing to keep in mind when you're padding in the Eel river area is that the geology is incredibly active, and things like rapids rearranging is entirely commonplace.
More Beautiful scenery ahead

This is a really fun river, and all of the train remnants are a constant reminder that once our "Babylon System a Fall" this will be what's left...abandoned railways and ghost towns!

We did take-out in Alderpoint, where there is a spot on the river left side just upstream of the bridge where you can drive most of the way to the river (all the way with 4WD).  I must admit, after hearing rumors of the "town's" reputation, it quickly lived up to them.  There where "whip-it" canisters (NO2) and Crown royal bottles on the bridge, and this is no place I'd want to leave my car.  The first people we encountered were true Appalachian-style hillbillies, roaring by us in their mufflerless truck and hollering incomprehensible gibberish.  Its worth the extra 5 miles to Fort Seward, to say the least, or hire a shuttle driver like we did...thanks Rosada!

The 3 day trip was awesome, we timed it perfectly with the break in the weather and both the North Eel and Main Eel are river's with spectacular and unique scenery that I will undoubtedly return to.  Don't let them get by you as long as I did!
Happy Paddling!

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