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South Fork Eel River


Looking north from the top of Red Mountain in the South Fork Eel River Wilderness Area.
South Fork Eel Wilderness

Location: Mendocino County. The Red Mountain unit is 75 miles south of Eureka, California and three miles northeast of Leggett, California.  The Cahto Peak unit is 100 miles south of Eureka, California and 10 miles west of Laytonville, California.  These two areas are bisected by U.S. Highway 101 and private lands.

State of California Map with locator arrow depicting location of the South Fork Eel River Wilderness.Area Description:  12,915 acres.  The Red Mountain unit is dominated by Red Mountain and the Cedar Creek drainage.  Elevations range from 1,100 feet at the southwest end along Cedar Creek to 4,083 feet, less than three miles away at the top Red Mountain.  Terrain is generally steep, consisting of rugged drainages dropping abruptly into Cedar Creek canyon.  A small area of fairly gentle slopes is found near the summit.  A zone of reddish soil occupies the central part of the area and contrasts sharply with the surrounding landscape.  These unusual soils have resulted in a unique vegetation cover of several species of pine and cypress trees intermixed with a low brush understory.  Rare and endangered plant species occupy the landscape covered by these ultrabasic soils.  Much of the area is designated a Research Natural Area (RNA) / Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).

The Cahto Peak unit is comprised of several Douglas fir forest watersheds, one of which is so pristine that it has been designated a Biosphere Reserve, a National Natural Landmark, and a Hydrologic Benchmark.  Much of the area is designated a RNA / ACEC.

Getting There: The Red Mountain unit is accessed by traveling U.S. Highway 101 to Piercy and then the frontage road to Red Mountain Access Road.  Travel to the end of Red Mountain Access Road.  The wilderness area is upslope several hundred meters; however, there is no developed trail or identifying markers along the permanent exclusive easement that passes through private property.

Access to the Cahto Peak unit is from U.S. Highway 101 at Laytonville, west on Branscomb Road, then right on Cahto Peak Road to its end.

Nonfederal Lands: Legal access to the Red Mountain Unit is along a public easement that passes through private property.  This easement route has not yet been developed or otherwise marked.  Private lands lie within the wilderness area.  Please respect the owner and do not use these lands without permission.

Additional Information: Signs indicating the wilderness boundary have been posted in many locations. Mechanized or motorized vehicles are not allowed in this wilderness area. Hunting is allowed under state laws. Fishing is not allowed. Pets are allowed, and must be under the owners control at all times. Camping is allowed and limited to 14 days. Campfires are allowed unless prohibited during seasonal fire restrictions. Gathering wood for campfires, when permitted, is limited to dead and down materials. Do not cut live vegetation. The BLM encourages all travelers exploring public lands, to use propylene glycol based antifreeze/coolant in their touring and recreation vehicles.  Proven safer, it will have minimal impacts on the wildlife and the environment should a leak occur.


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Bureau of Land Management
Arcata Field Office
1695 Heindon Road
Arcata, CA 95521-4573
Phone: (707) 825-2300
Fax: (707) 825-2301
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