Tomki Creek - Hearst Road at Rocktree Creek to Hearst on Eel River

Tomki Creek, California, US


Hearst Road at Rocktree Creek to Hearst on Eel River

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Length 17.3 Miles
Avg. Gradient 20 fpm
Max Gradient 25 fpm

River Description

Tomki Creek can be runnable during the winter rainy season.   There is reported to be a lot of brush, so don't go in when the flow is too high.   

The second half of the run is on the main Eel River and tends to go quickly.

Getting There:  

From the town of Willits on Highway 101, the take out at Hearst is about 10 miles to the east on Hearst-Willits Rd.  The shuttle from take-out to put-in is only about 5.4 miles.


Tomki Creek Report

by David Emery

Thanks to Paul Futscher's excellent judgement with Eel watershed flows, we were treated to a rare opportunity to run Tomki Creek on Monday 2/25/08, survive it and even enjoy it. This was a first run on Tomki for all three of us - Paul, myself, and Matt Barnett, all paddling IKs. We put in at 12:30 and had no time to waste with 17 miles to go.

Bill Tuthill's account of Tomki Creek (see California Creeks website) was apparently at a higher flow, during a rain storm. Our experience yesterday was pleasantly exciting and probably not as punishing. I would do it at the same flow again, or perhaps a few inches higher. Its a tight range between dragging rubber near the putin and losing control through the rapids below, with dense brush and tree growth in the creek seriously compounding the hazards. So timing the flow is very critical, and will be addressed in more detail later in this report.

Wasn't long after putin that we found ourselves ducking low willow branches and splitting wide walls of grassy brush to get downstream. The creekbed was often broad and broken up by sandbars, and the deepest water was often near the bank on either left or right. Eventually the brush got thicker with thin gaps becoming long paths or tunnels, some that ended badly and others with no end in sight. As expected, the best paths often had the most current or gradient, which made every decision seem that much riskier - a dead end in fast water would not be pretty. If I were to name any of the rapids on this run, my first choice would have to be Blind Faith.

Many rapids were negotiable with the help of very active route-picking on our part - lots of sharp turns from one channel to another through small openings in the brush and willow branches. But about 4-5 miles down the creek became deep and rocky, and we were squeezed down two quick drops through jumbled rock sieves and a couple van-sized boulders in the main channel. I took the first drop on the right, got immersed between some rocks, and had to get out and unwrap. I think Paul and Matt had better luck on the left side. At the second drop, off-angle again, I just managed to scoot around the last boulder, thanks to a friendly pillow right where I needed it. Pretty claustrophobic in there.

Expecting more of the same, or better or worse, we found the creekbed flattened and spread out again, but now the flow had nearly doubled, and finding channels through the brush was easier. At this point Tomki Creek was like a small river, and we paddled a few miles of continuous Class II+ rapids through thin brush and warm sunshine.

Near its confluence with the Eel, Tomki entered another deep rocky section, longer than than first, obscured not by walls of brush, but groves of tall alders scattered across the creekbed. Finding routes here was more like back-country skiing than any kayaking I've ever done before, and it was a thrill I will not soon forget. We peered down a long tree-lined chute on river right, curving left into the void, descended and found ourselves eddied on a ledge in the middle of a small shady forest, trees draped in lichen and water all around.

Momentarily enchanted, we looked down, saw more action ahead and charged through another series of chutes, picket fences, and boulder jams. When we got to the next pool, I checked upstream on Matt before noticing we were on the verge of a wide ledge drop on clean solid bedrock, holding waves with deep troughs and strong hydraulics. A quarter mile later we entered the main Eel, high, pushy and frigid, about 8 miles above the bridge at Hearst, where we arrived only 75 minutes later. The entire 17-mile run was completed in 4 hours, and the shuttle in about half an hour.

Due to the extreme and unusual conditions on Tomki Creek, it is very difficult to classify with a single Roman numeral. Reports of expert kayakers having trouble on this run are not uncommon. Class IV creek experience is essential, groups of 3-4 paddlers optimal, equipped with throw ropes, extra paddles, eye protection, and emergency supplies. Similar to Mark West Creek, but longer, brushier, blinder, and far more remote, but not as steep and fast. Beautiful upper Eel scenery.

Regarding optimal flows, Paul Futscher adds the following:

"Do not boat Tomki when there is a threat of rain or it is raining. Tomki's flow at mile 2 can be as high as 10,000CFS during or immediately after a storm. Wait 24 hours after a good rain (2-3") -- see put-in picture for a good flow.

A boatable level is 500cfs at mile 2. With Tomki put-in running 300CFS, Tomki mile 2 running 500-600CFS, and Tomki at the confluence running 1,000CFS, the Eel is likely to be running 5,000-8,000CFS.

A fair estimate of Tomki is 3-5% of Ft. Seward 24 hours after a good rain."

Happy Paddling
David Emery


The flow numbers that David gives for Tomke are visual estimates and not based on any gauge information.   Use your best judgement and examine the photos below.  If flows seem too high, there are other boating options in the area.   


Bridge over Tomki below Putin

Putin at Hearst-Willits Crossing

About to Enter the Jungle

Bridge over Eel at Hearst Takeout

Photos by Paul Futscher



Other Information Sources:

CaCreeks - Tomki

Friends of the Eel River 



StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2008-04-07 14:55:36

Rapid Descriptions

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