Friday, March 24, 2017


Photo By Chris Hansen
Mendocino County is known its rugged coastline of bluffs, tide pools and beaches offering sights of seals and migrating whales, however, the Eel River is often overlooked by many.
"One of the best kept secrets of Mendocino County is the Eel River," wrote wildlife photographer Chris Hansen in his blog "It's one of the most beautiful river systems in California. It has some great rafting and kayaking as well."
It's said the Eel is a river of extreme flows. During the winter into late spring depending on the rainfall it can run with force of a fire hose, while in the heat of late summer can dwindle down to a trickle. According to Whitewater Rafting in California's web page, the Eel has one the longest continuous river runs in California as it moves northward through the Coast Ranges before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. It's four forks and tributaries provide opportunities for whitewater kayaking and rafting on its upper sections. A popular run from Dos Rios to Alderpoint has plenty of Class II and III rapids and can take anywhere from three to four days to travel. The last part of the run from Fort Seward to the Pacific is mostly flat, but adding this stretch, it says one can easily turn the Eel River into a 10-day wilderness canoe odyssey. 

For Hansen photography and kayaking go hand in hand. As a flat water boater, he uses a Native Watercraft 14.5 tandem kayak with a modified set up for wildlife photography.  Many of his shots in Chris the Photog, his photo blog he has photographed while in his boat.

Photo By Chris Hansen
"I got started in kayaking when I lived in Sacramento next to the American River," Hansen wrote in an email, "A neighbor had four old school white water kayaks and we did a lot of runs on the lower American. It didn't take me long before I bought kayaks of my own. It then spurred my interest in photographing from a kayak, as I learned that wildlife is very approachable on the water."

Although earlier this month he had more trouble finding kayakers than wildlife. With flows running high on the Eel River, he went looking for boaters but got there too late and missing the action.  So a couple of days later, he went back, a little earlier this time and managed to catch boaters doing a short run from Legal Bridge down to about half way to Dos Rios access.

"It was a game of photograph and chase," wrote Hansen in his blog, "I would find and photograph them and then race ahead of them to the next rapid, park and then do it all over again. It was a lot of fun. The conditions were pretty hard to photograph in, as it was believe it or not, too much of a nice a day. It was bright, sunny and hot!"

In his blog, Hansen offers a daily peek at the birds and creatures in and around his home at Willits, California. His wildlife photos have develop quite a following on-line getting his blog selected as a favorite by the Google's Blogger Team. He also has recently published a book entitled, Secrets of Backyard Bird Photography available on Amazon.
Photo By Chris Hansen
"I enjoy photographing kayakers as well." Hansen wrote in an email,  "Mostly up on the Eel River when I know that Jeff Laxier and Cate Hawthorne from Liquid Fusion Kayaking are running a tour or teaching a Whitewater class. Otherwise it's hard to find kayakers on that stretch of river due to the fact that there aren't many kayakers on it."

You can check out more about Chris Hansen and images on on his blog post Chris the Photog and on Facebook

Over the Bow is a feature from Outside Adventure to the Max, telling the story behind the image. If you have a great picture with a great story, submit it to us at