The South Fork of the Eel River is popular for swimming and sunbathing in the summer and for salmon and steelhead catch-and-release fishing in the winter. Anglers 16 or older need a valid California fishing license.

A deep, picture-perfect swimming hole lies just beyond the Dawn Redwood Group Camp north of the visitor center. South of the visitor center, there’s a riverside picnic or “day use” area where the waters are shallower—and better for young children. Some visitors enjoy floating from one swimming spot to the other with inner tubes.

Use caution: while the South Fork of the Eel is placid in summer, it can be swift in the rainy season. No lifeguards are on duty. Children should be supervised at all times. Also avoid swimming late in the season if there’s a buildup of blue-green algae