[18] This soil is often known as "blue goo" because of its gray-blue texture and its tendency to slip when saturated. Logging, grazing and other resource exploitation activities and their accompanying environmental changes have also increased the intensity of flood and drought. However, the settlers also faced conflict as they pushed deeper into Native American lands. [10] Nevertheless, logging, grazing, road-building and other human activities continue to significantly affect the watershed's ecology. The South Fork is designated from its mouth to the Section Four Creek confluence, the North Fork from its mouth to Old Gilman Ranch, and the Van Duzen River from its mouth to Dinsmore Bridge. [59] In December 2013, due to record low levels of water in the Eel River and the associated dammed lakes, levels of fish and lampreys in the rivers were at lowest recorded levels, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company sought to have FERC change their operating license to permit even lower releases of water to Eel until the drought eases. Originally conceived in the late 1800s and built between 1906 and 1922, the project provides about 159,000 acre feet (0.196 km3) of additional waters for the Russian River system, for about 500,000 people in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties.[55]. The Eel flows through some of the most beautiful redwood groves in the state, including Humboldt Redwood State Park. Date: Report: Author: 1-14-2021: Predicted to Drop Quickly & Could Fish Late Next Week The river flows 105 miles (169 km) north from Laytonville to Dyerville/Founders' Grove where it joins the Eel River… ", "California Water: Will There Be Enough? The topography creates a general drainage pattern that runs from southeast to northwest, except in the Middle Fork basin and the Eel headwaters, where water runs from east to west. Can alternative recreational uses such as fishing and mountain biking be developed? [54], There are two hydroelectric dams on the Eel – 130-foot (40 m) Scott Dam, which forms Lake Pillsbury, and 50-foot (15 m) Cape Horn Dam, which forms Van Arsdale Reservoir just north of Potter Valley. [33]:147 From the beginning, these dams were heavily contested by local residents as well as by environmental groups seeking the protection of California's remaining wild rivers. Project objectives include improved conditions for native fish, maintenance of reliable water supply, respect for tribal rights, and minimization of impacts to Lake County, which is the location of Scott Dam, Lake Pillsbury, and many miles of prime spawning habitat on the upper reaches of the Eel River. [23], The first westerner to enter the Eel River was Sebastián Vizcaíno, sailing on behalf of Philip III of Spain, seeking a mythical northwest passage described in secret papers as being at the latitude of Cape Mendocino. [4] Flooding events have a large effect on the average amount of transported sediment: high water in the years 1969, 1983 and 1998 caused an annual sediment load 27 times greater than that of normal years. ", U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: South Fork Eel River, U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: North Fork Eel River, Summer water temperature conditions in the Eel River System, with reference to trout and salmon, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Eel_River_(California)&oldid=1001863037, Wild and Scenic Rivers of the United States, Articles with unsourced statements from December 2013, Articles needing additional references from December 2013, All articles needing additional references, Wikipedia articles with WorldCat-VIAF identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Middle Fork Eel River, North Fork Eel River, Van Duzen River, This page was last edited on 21 January 2021, at 19:02. In the Mediterranean climate of its basin, almost all precipitation falls in the winter and wet season flows can be enormous, while the summer and early autumn provide only minimal precipitation, if any, allowing the sometimes mighty river to slow to a trickle. After damaging floods in 1955, these dams also received support for potential flood-control benefits. During July, August and September, temperatures in the lower Eel River occasionally hit 85 °F (29 °C) or higher, creating fatal conditions for these fish. [42][43], Human impacts have led to a dramatic decline of salmon and steelhead populations in the Eel River system. Eel River salmon returns As of Nov. 28, a total of 390 Chinook salmon have entered the Van Arsdale fish count station according to Scott L Harris, an associate Biologist with the Northern Region. At Cape Horn Dam, the majority of the water is diverted through a tunnel and hydroelectric plant, and then to the headwaters of the Russian River in Potter Valley and is known as the Potter Valley Project. In combination with drought in the early 21st century, average diversions through the project have decreased by about 69,000 acre feet (0.085 km3) for the period 2004 through 2010. The Eel River originates on the southern flank of 6,740-foot (2,050 m) Bald Mountain, in the Upper Lake Ranger District of the Mendocino National Forest in Mendocino County. Eel River monthly mean discharge at Scotia (cfs)[7]. While tributaries like Jack of Hearts and Redwood Creek ran low, they remained cold but had no coho salmon … [38], Aquatic mammals include beaver, muskrat, raccoon, river otter and mink. However, both the Mississippi and Colorado have lesser sediment yields relative to their drainage areas. The Eel River system extends into five California counties – Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, and Trinity. [58] Under current agreements, the dams must release at least 100 cubic feet per second (2.8 m3/s) beginning every year on December 1 to aid salmon migration. [66] There is good fishing for Chinook salmon and steelhead in the lower river, and rainbow trout are found above Lake Pillsbury. Redwood Empire Trout Unlimited is partnering with CDFW and Golden Gate Trout Unlimited on a critical Salmon and Steelhead monitoring project. The Eel River water, fish and ecosystem are have faced development challenges, and sections of the river are closed to fishing to protect the juvenile steelhead. Are mitigations to Lake County sufficient and reasonable? The Eel River mouth is located 15 miles south of Eureka. Then as young fish prepare for life at sea, shaded river pools and estuary shallows are essential to … Conservationists saw this as a backdoor attempt to resurrect Dos Rios Dam and endorsed the Behr bill. The South Fork Eel River is the largest tributary of the Eel River in north-central California in the United States. [40], The Eel River supports runs of multiple anadromous fishes – Chinook, coho salmon, steelhead (rainbow trout) and coastal cutthroat trout among the major species. Record flooding in 1955 and 1964, which destroyed or damaged large amounts of habitat along the Eel and its tributaries, was generally regarded as the final blow. Besides addressing complex environmental issues, these studies would include an economic analysis designed to narrow down cost estimates, which vary wildly from little more than $100 million to more than $500 million. Recreational Dos Rios, located at the confluence of the Middle Fork of the Eel River and the mainstem, is the put-in for a popular four-day trip through the Eel River … [30] Now listed on the National Historic Register, Fernbridge is the last major crossing before the Eel arrives at the Pacific Ocean. [58] These conditions were revised in 2004, when stricter minimum release standards were established. The majority of the watershed is located within Mendocino and Humboldt Counties. [33] Water would be diverted through a 40-mile (64 km) tunnel to the Sacramento Valley, where it would join the water flowing down the Sacramento River to the California Aqueduct pumps in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. Water exports would take place during high winter flows rather than in the summer as they do presently and would be stored in Lake Mendocino. In 1914, after seven years of construction, the Northwestern Pacific Railroad completed a rail line running along much of the Eel River as an important transportation link connecting Eureka and the many small towns along the Eel River valley to the national rail network. The Eel River (Cahto: Taanchow)[5] is a major river, about 196 miles (315 km) long, of northwestern California. Due to the mountainous terrain and heavy precipitation in the Eel River watershed, erosion rates are particularly high. The Potter Valley Project has been argued by environmental groups to have significant impacts on the salmonid (Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead) populations of the basin. However, Behr had been forced to compromise in order to get his bill approved from the state: as signed, it would only place a 12-year moratorium on planning for dams in the Eel River system. [8]:51, Many of the people who settled in this region were prospectors from the Gold Rush who did not manage to find gold. While improved from the low point of 3,500 at the beginning of the decade, the runs have yet to again reach the high mark of over 30,000. Reduction in flow occurs in part due to deliberate water diversion from the Eel to the Russian River watershed by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Potter Valley Project, located to the south in Mendocino County. A total of 398 miles (641 km) of the Eel River and its major tributaries are protected under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system, with 97 miles (156 km) classed as Wild, 28 miles (45 km) as Scenic, and 273 miles (439 km) as Recreational. [14][49], The Eel River has never contained true eels, but is named for the Pacific lamprey, an eel-shaped parasite that attaches itself to other fish during its ocean life-cycle. Eel River Research Examines Dams’ Effect on Salmon. Snaking along California’s North Coast is the Eel River, the state’s third largest watershed, which along with its tributaries, covers 3,684 square miles … Many questions remain, starting with impacts on local recreational users and cabin owners. The river was named after they traded a frying pan to a group of Wiyot fishermen in exchange for a large number of Pacific lampreys, which the explorers thought were eels. [35] The Eel River drainage area was directly in the storm's path. The watershed is bordered on the north by the basin of the Mad River, on the east by that of the Sacramento River, on the west by that of the Mattole River, and on the south by those of the Russian River and Ten Mile River. A second chance for Eel River salmon and steelhead? By 1969, a strong opposition movement had formed, led by a Round Valley rancher named Richard Wilson, who had studied hydraulics at Dartmouth College. [13][14] Prior to 2011, the Eel River basin consisted of 65.1% forest, 12.2% shrubland, and 19.2% grassland, with just 1.9% agricultural and 0.2% developed urban. In the hurry to be "first" in Humboldt Bay, they dragged a longboat through the sloughs on the north side of the Eel River mouth to the waters of the Bay where they were met by members of the Laura Virginia party. [12], Since the 19th century, logging activity in the watershed has loosened soil and destabilized aquifers, reducing the river's base flow, although the watershed is slowly recovering. Below Eel Rock the ocean winds make boating difficult starting in the early afternoon. [67]:109–110, The Eel River watershed includes Admiral William Standley State Recreation Area, Smithe Redwoods State Recreation Area, Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Richardson Grove State Park, Six Rivers National Forest, and Mendocino National Forest, which are popular for camping and hiking. The Eel River system is among the most dynamic in California because of the region's unstable geology and the influence of major Pacific storms. [citation needed] The proposed reservoir would have flooded the Round Valley Indian Reservation. "[63]:313 Collier's bill was supported by powerful agricultural interests in the Central Valley on the "dubious claim" that they would need the water of these rivers in the future. The Eel River, which has the third largest watershed in the state, supports salmon and trout fisheries. In the same year, senator Randolph Collier proposed a measure that would block dams in the Klamath and Trinity Rivers but "permitted 'planning' for dams on the Eel River. [15] At least 16 species of non-native fish have been introduced to the river system. [68][69] There is wilderness camping above Lake Pillsbury on both branches, the Rice Fork and Eel River, (also known as South Eel because it is south of the lake), which have plenty of swimming holes and camp sites. This station measures runoff from an area of 3,113 square miles (8,060 km2), or 85 percent of the basin; however it does not include the flow of the Van Duzen River, which joins several miles downstream. The watershed also contains many stands of Redwoodthat are among the largest such trees in California. [17] The Franciscan is part of a terrane, or crustal fragment, that originated at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The Van Duzen River also has some class II–III runs beginning below Goat Rock. When the Eel is … In the 1960s Chinook salmon were estimated to have averaged 56,000 spawners annually in the entire Eel River basin and coho salmon averaged 14,000 spawners annually. The Upper Eel River Chinook salmon population includes all fish spawning upstream of the South Fork Eel River confluence, and all major tributaries including the Middle Fork Eel River (NMFS, 2011). The Eel River basin has been inhabited by humans for thousands of years; some of the oldest concrete evidence of human habitation is at a petroglyph site near the upper Eel River discovered in 1913, which may be as old as 2500 years. SONAR technology allows us to more accurately monitor salmon which under past survey techniques might be un-detectable. Although the damming would have relieved pressure on California's overburdened water systems, it stirred up decades of controversy, as some of the proposals made little economic sense and would have been detrimental to an ailing salmon run. The South Fork Eel River joins from the west, near Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the town of Weott. A second chance for Eel River salmon and…, Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window), Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window). Salmon and Steelhead are important to tribes, recreational and commercial fishermen and contribute to the local economy along the entire length of the Eel River. In response, Rep. Jared Huffman called together a diverse group of environmental organizations, water agencies, local governments and tribes and formed an ad hoc committee to explore options for the future operation of the project. [64]:175, The four forks of the Eel and their tributaries provide many opportunities for whitewater kayaking and rafting on their upper sections. In contrast, during the dry months of July through September, the river achieves nearly zero flow. FERC can’t compel the partnership to pivot to a dam-retention-plus-fish-ladders outcome, or consider that outcome at all without a willing and well-funded entity to assume responsibility for massive construction costs and liabilities including ongoing dam maintenance. [7] Monthly average flows at Scotia range from 19,700 cu ft/s (560 m3/s) in January to 138 cu ft/s (3.9 m3/s) in September – a 143:1 difference. Below the South Fork the Eel flows through a wider agricultural valley, past Scotia and Rio Dell, before receiving the Van Duzen River from the east. Consisting of several hundred dwellings, primarily on Mendocino National Forest leaseholds but also including a scattering in private ownership, this community has very few permanent residents. The construction of Scott Dam on the Eel River completely blocked the passage of critically endangered anadromous fish. A second chance for Eel River salmon and steelhead? In the meantime, the clock is ticking for the salmon and steelhead. Are downstream flows sufficient to support spawning migrations this far upstream? After this confluence the Eel flows briefly through southwestern Trinity County, past Island Mountain, before entering Humboldt County near Alderpoint. [7] The river also carries the highest suspended sediment load of any river of its size in the United States, in part due to the frequent landslides in the region. Salmon canneries flourished on the lower Eel between the 1870s and the 1920s, and declined thereafter because of decreasing runs caused by overfishing and other manmade environmental changes. In 1979, he requested the North Coast rivers be added to the National Wild and Scenic system. [8]:75–94 They named the Van Duzen River after James Van Duzen, a member of the expedition. A new major factor limiting Eel River Chinook salmon survival is ocean productivity in the area off northern California. Below the dam the river flows west, re-entering Mendocino County. [56] Although dam operators are required to maintain certain flows below the diversion during the dry season, these flows can be cut during exceptionally dry years, preventing salmonids from reaching certain spawning streams in the Eel River basin. [8]:75–94 Except for Gregg who was a physician, naturalist and explorer, the remainder of the party were miners from a temporary camp on the Trinity River at Helena. Starting in the late 19th century the Eel River supported a large salmon canning industry which began to decline by the 1920s due to overfishing. A new proposal would re-open the main stem of the Eel to … The Eel River Recovery Project won a Proposition 1 grant in August 2018 through the California Coastal Conservancy to assist Tenmile Creek land owners with riparian restoration, gully erosion control and … [15]:586, In the 20th century, much of the watershed area was included under state parks and national forest, including Six Rivers National Forest, Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, and Humboldt Redwoods State Park. An alternate proposal would have sent the water south from Dos Rios, through English Ridge and then a tunnel to Clear Lake, from which the water would flow down Cache Creek to the Sacramento River. [4] The Eel's maximum recorded flow of 936,000 cu ft/s (26,500 m3/s) on December 23, 1964 was the largest peak discharge of any California river in recorded history, and one of the largest peaks recorded in the world relative to the size of its drainage basin. [20] Further inland and south, soils are well drained, although landslides are nevertheless common because of the high rainfall and steep slopes.[18]. TABLE 2 Weekly Counts, South Fork of the Eel River and Mad River, 1948-1949 NORTHERN CALIFORNIA SALMON AND STEELHEAD RUNS 499 South Fork of the Eel River Mad River At Fortuna, the river turns west across the coastal plain and enters the Pacific via a large estuary in central Humboldt County, about 15 miles (24 km) south of Eureka.[11]. A report issued last year by UC Davis and CalTrout estimated that nearly 75 percent of the state’s 31 salmon … Commercial fishing on the Eel River was banned in 1926 after decades of overfishing. [44] Logging and grazing, which expose formerly forested land as bare ground, have had even greater impact on the populations of these fish.