The Smith and its many forks is a jewel of a river system in the far northwestern corner of California. It is one of the state’s great free-flowing rivers and is protected as a National Wild and Scenic River by the federal government. It drains the western slopes of the Siskiyou Mountains in California and Southern Oregon and features California’s only rain forest-like environment. It flows through the Six Rivers National Forest and is designated as a National Recreation Area.
There are a number of great day trips in this river system, and most boaters spend four to five days exploring the area and camping at Jedediah Smith State Park or at Forest Service campgrounds east of Gasquet.
The north fork is a 13-mile pristine wilderness run through Class III and IV rapids. The river mellows out on the main section, which features some easy Class IIs, and the south fork is mostly Class III.
Boaters be warned! Both the main fork and the south fork abruptly encounter Class V rapids about a mile before their official take-outs. Alternate take-outs allow paddlers to avoid these sections.
Paddlers can look forward to unique plant life like lacy Port-Orford cedar, orchids, pitcher plants, azaleas and wild flowers. Wildlife like black-tailed deer, otters, bald eagles and black bear are easy to spot on the Smith. The gin-clear waters also make for excellent fishing.