North Fork Wilderness


North Fork Eel River, North Fork Wilderness
North Fork Eel River, North Fork Wilderness

North Fork Wilderness is a 7,999-acre property on Six Rivers National Forest in northwestern California. The name comes from the North Fork Eel River (a designated Wild and Scenic River) that is the centerpiece of the wilderness area. In season, the river offers several miles of Class IV and V rapids but water flows are quirky, the river shallow and the river bed filled with boulders and other debris from landslides over the years. For that reason, the North Fork Eel River is rated as very difficult.

The landscape is steep and rugged with a large part of the wilderness contained within the spectacular gorge along the river. Tree cover is mixed conifers above, oak and cottonwood below. North-facing slopes are usually timbered in Douglas fir, ponderosa pina and incense cedar. South-facing slopes are drier and covered with manzanita and scrub oak, sometimes grassy, often in a thick chaparral. The river is large enough to carry steelhead trout and coho salmon in season but there have been problems with fish access due to erosive effects left over from the days when the area was open for logging (pre-1964). Elevations are relatively low and the area attracts a lot of blacktail deer for the winter. That brings in plenty of deer hunters in the fall.

Wilderness access is very poor and trails are almost non-existent because of overgrowth and lack of maintenance. Visitors will most likely have the whole property to themselves except during hunting season. This is not an area for novices, you need to have a good topographic map and be good with a compass or GPS.

North Fork Eel River
Kayaking the North Fork Eel River