Russian, E. Fork, California, US
Falls 1 Mi. up from Hwy 20 to Lake Mendocino
||II+(III) (for normal flows)
Russian down the river
Russian down the river
This is a fun run. Many good play spots. This is called a "River" but it is really a creek at this
point. Expect to be "creekin'" here.
See Coyote Dam Inflow
The East Fork of the Russian River
It is one of those engineering marvels from another era that is made possible by a coincidence of
nature. The Eel River is only a few miles from the upper reaches of the Russian River drainage but
it is separated by several hundred feet of elevation. P.G. & E. saw this as an opportunity to
extract energy from this water by drilling a tunnel through the ridge that separates the two
rivers. The cost of labor, the environmental impact, and the liability would probably preclude this
project if it were proposed today.
Eel River water is metered from Lake Pillsbury to the much smaller Van Arsdale reservoir ten miles
below. From there, water flows through the ridge to a generating station in Potter Valley. This
water then joins with the East Fork of the Russian River and about ten miles later it enters Lake
Mendocino. Without this additional water, the Russian River would be pitifully small during the
summer months. Old- timers tell of some stretches of the river where no above ground flow connected
the occasional pools.
The last three miles of the East Fork of the Russian River provide a delightful Class II+ run. This
stretch is short, relatively continuous, has a good "ender" spot, has an easy put-in and take-out,
and a very easy shuttle. You may run it as a warm-up to the Pillsbury Run on the Eel.
.There is a Class V - VI rapid called "Three-Rock Falls" by the locals that should
probably be portaged by most people at most water levels. This area has taken the lives of several
inner-tubers and there are signs warning boaters to portage around it. There is at least one
under-cut rock that would be difficult to avoid at lower water. The route described here enters
below this rapid.
Highway 20 travels East from Highway 101 just north of Ukiah. It follows the north shore of Lake
Mendocino for the first few miles. The take-out is under the bridge where Highway 20 crosses the
East Fork near the north-east corner of Lake Mendocino. Look for a road heading down and to the
north just East of the Bridge. This road is labeled "Lake Mendocino Recreation Area." Follow this
to the obvious turn-out (complete with trash can, and picnic table) just beyond the bridge.
The put-in is along Potter Valley Road which goes north from Highway 20 less than two-miles above
the bridge. The road is well marked and with a sign pointing to Lake Pillsbury and the town of
Potter Valley. You may put-in at either the first bridge where Potter Valley Road crosses the river
or about a mile further just below "Three Rock." You can recognize this second put-in by its
parking lot which is separated from the main road. A short dirt road goes to the right and toward
the river. Up until here, the only parking has been at turn-outs on the road.
The bridge put-in is much easier and makes the total trip less than two-miles. The disadvantage is
that you will miss some excellent white water and the "ender spot." The description below will
assumes that you have entered at the upper put-in just below "Three Rock Falls."
Park near the upper end of the parking lot and walk down on the trail that leaves from the north
end of the lot. You may want walk a hundred yards upstream and look at Three Rock Falls, an
Class I+ and II rapids begin right away. There are two sections above the bridge that probably rate
close to II+. The "ender spot" is below the second of the more difficult sections. The river drops
down a small fall. A number of us were able to "get vertical" without too much effort. You will
need to experiment with it to find the best approach.
The stretch below the bridge (the lower put-in) is relatively easy for about a half- mile. The
toughest rapids are Class I+ and the biggest obstacles are strainers. Watch-out for newly fallen
The crux of the run occurs about a mile below the bridge as the river splits at an left- hand turn.
The right-hand branch is a bolder clogged chute that continues for sever hundred yards. This is the
toughest class II+ passage on the run and you may want to scout it. Scout from the island between
the two branches.
After a couple of Class II sections, you will be in the lake and, after a few more minutes of
paddling, you will be at the take-out.
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Last Updated: 2002-09-26 11:04:12