The Mattole River flows for about 62 miles (100 km) through the King Range to the Mattole Estuary and then into the Pacific Ocean at the Punta Gorda State Marine Reserve about 10 miles (16 km) south of Cape Mendocino and 4 miles (6.4 km) west-southwest of the community of Petrolia, California. The name “Mattole” means “clear water” and is after the name of an Athabaskan People that historically called themselves Mattóal, but were referred to by neighboring Wyott Indians as Medol or me’tuul.
The river has 74 tributaries, some that originate at elevations of 4,000 feet (1,200 m) above sea level, that drain a watershed of about 304 square miles (790 sq km). The river is used for recreation and agricultural, and municipal and industrial water supply. It also provides wildlife habitat, including fish migration and spawning. The Mattole River is home to Chinook and coho salmon, and steelhead trout. In 2009-2010, only three returning adult coho salmon were counted which is far below the 19th-century historical estimates of 17,000 to 20,000 adults annually.
The Mattole River has been declared an impaired waterbody by the California Coastal Commission. Areas in the Mattole River watershed are being restored to revive habitat that was degraded by a combination of early industrial logging techniques and associated road construction, naturally erosion and sedimentation, and damage by two 100-year floods that occurred in 1955 and 1964. The Mattole River and Range Partnership, consisting of the Mattole Restoration Council, Mattole Salmon Group, and Sanctuary Forest, undertake this work with the collaboration of watershed landowners and funding from multiple private and sources. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Mattole River Estuary here: