Eel River Rice Fork above Pillsbury


Stretch: Blue Slides Creek to Pillsbury Reservoir
Difficulty: Class II with one III and one possible Class V
Distance: 8 miles (1.5 on reservoir), 1 day
Flows: 400 - 1000 cfs
Gauge: none, but runnable after recent rain
Gradient: 31 fpm average, highest in mile 4-5
Put-in: Forest Service Road M10, 2020'
Take-out: Pillsbury Reservoir, 1818'
Shuttle: 15 miles (.5 hour) one-way, all on dirt roads
Maps: USFS Mendocino NF, AAA Sonoma and Mendocino
Season: March perhaps into June, rain and some snowmelt
Agency: USFS
Notes: © 1998 Bill Tuthill, CreeksYahoo

Sometimes a river beckons from a map, asking you why nobody has bothered to run it and write it up in a guidebook. This is one such river, although after a run in May 1998, we know why this segment doesn't appear in any guidebook. Although its gradient of 31 fpm seemed promising, most of this action comes in two successive rapids around mile 4.5. The rest of the river is class II at most. To add insult to injury, the trip ends with a long paddle across Pillsbury Reservoir.

Put in where forest road M10 fords the river just below its confluence with Bear Creek, the tributary with the most snowmelt. Do not attempt to ford the river unless you're sure you can make it. The picture shows what happens if you aren't careful.
Eel River Rice Fork The river had its way with this truck
Class I and occasional class II rapids for about four miles.
Bevans Creek enters on the left.
Rice Creek enters on the right.
Mariboho's Blowout, class IV+ or V-
This rapid contains many undercut boulders and seems best to run on the right (1998). It is named after Keith Mariboho, who popped his Padillac while attempting to line this rapid. Moderate portage (with sharp rocks and bushes) on the left.
Eel River Rice Fork Entering the top of the rapid, slanting towards right. Note Keith's helmet in foreground as he lines his boat.
Eel River Rice Fork The crux move around an undercut boulder and into a big hole backed up by a rock.
Eel River Rice Fork Grabbed by an underwater rock on the right, and stunned by the pop of Keith's boat, Bill loses momentum.
Eel River Rice Fork Andy finishing out the run, showing how well his long flexible boat bridges those big holes.
Eel River Rice Fork Keith finishes out the run on extreme river left, showing the importance of selecting the proper athletic footwear.
Deer Creek enters on left, then the river bends sharp left.
Anticlimax, class III
Just below Mariboho's Blowout, this is the second most exciting rapid on the run. Afterwards, class I rapids continue unabated.
Willow Creek comes in on the left.
Slack waters of Pillsbury Reservoir. Continue paddling about 1.5 miles to a primitive boat ramp on the left connected to a dirt road.
To reach take-out, take Potter Valley Road north from Highway 20, and follow signs to Pillsbury Reservoir. Near Van Arsdale, follow the south side of the river on Elk Creek - Potter Valley Road (River Road) to where forest road M1 turn uphill to the right. Follow this towards the reservoir, and descend on a minor road to a primitive boat ramp up the Rice Fork arm.

To reach put-in from there, return to M1 and continue southwest and south for about 9 more miles to Bear Creek Road, M10. Turn left and descend about 5 miles to the river.


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