The Eel River represents California's third largest watershed. The mainstem flows more than two hundred air miles and travels over 800 river miles from the headwaters above Lake Pillsbury in Lake County to the ocean.
The Eel River has received both state (1972) and federal (1981) wild and scenic river designation, which protects the river from dams and ensure that environmental concerns rank equally with development and industry.
The three forks of the Eel illustrate several river types, originating in high mountain pine forests; flowing through steep canyons and coastal redwood forests; and emptying into the Pacific in a gently sloping valley with virgin redwood stands. The North Fork flows 35 miles, completely in Trinity County. The Middle Fork, the Eel's largest tributary, travels a total of 70 miles before joining the mainstem Eel. The South Fork begins in Mendocino County and travels through ancient redwood forests to join the mainstem. (www.rivers.gov)