Smith, Middle Fork, California, US
Above Patrick Creek to S. Fork Road (thru Oregon Hole Gorge)
||II-V (for normal flows)
Hole in the Wall
Hole in the WallPhoto of Grant Werschkull by Thomas O'Keefe taken 03/06/15 @ 1320 cfs
Depending on flows, you can find good whitewater within about 10 miles of the California-Oregon
border and continuing all the way down to the confluence with the South Fork about 22 miles
downstream near Hiouchi. The river is all roadside with multiple access points. The four runs
below represent the standard options but multiple access points allow you to further customize
1) Middle Fork Falls to Siskiyou Gorge, 7.0 miles, class III/III+
The run on the upper reaches of the river is very scenic but requires slightly higher flows than
the downstream sections. The action picks up as you reach the Siskiyou Gorge but you can take-out
2) Siskiyou Gorge, 1.0 miles, class IV(V)
An upper gorge upstream of the Patrick Creek confluence can be run when flows are high. You can
scout most of it from the road but it's a narrow shoulder.
3) Patrick Creek to Gasquet, 9.7 miles, class III(IV)
The run from Patrick Creek to Panther Flat is a class III/III+ classic. You will encounter
somewhere between 15 to 20 class rapids in the stretch from Patrick Creek down to Panther Flat
with consistent action from start to finish.
This section also includes one class IV rapid known as Highway Rapid. Shortly after the river
passes under the highway from south to north, you will come to Highway Rapid where the river
makes a sharp left hand turn. The rapid gets harder as flows rise, but can be scouted or portaged
with some effort on river left.
Panther Flat Campground is the usual take out for this run but you can continue on downstream
through Gasquet, past the confluence of the North Fork and take-out at Margie’s Access.
4) Gasquet to Middle Fork Gorge, 4.3 miles, class II/III
This is a great run that starts out as class II from Gasquet. If you want to cut out this first
section, you can put in at the Mary Adams bridge. Below this point the whitewater action builds
with some fun class III rapids including the named drops of Crotch, Cars, and Brent's Hole.
You can use this run as a fun prelude and warm-up to the gorge downstream or take out at Middle
Fork Gorge access site if you are an intermediate paddler.
5) Middle Fork Gorge (aka Oregon Hole Gorge), 2.2 miles, class IV/V
The short Middle Fork Gorge is often run by itself but you can start higher up for some warm-up.
The run starts with some fun class III+ drops that build in intensity as you approach the Nozzle.
This rapid is a long sequence that changes with flows and while you can get a good overview from
the road it is wise to scout from river level. You can take out early on river left and scout the
entrance and series of drops or boat scout through the entrance and grab an eddy on river right
to hop out and pick the line through the main section.
Shortly downstream you will come to Hole in the Wall where the river flows along a dramatic cliff
on river left. This rapid is visible from the road but as with the rapid above, you will want to
hop out at river level on the right to scout your line and figure out how to best avoid the hole.
Just around the corner and out of site from the road, you will come to the Oregon Hole. This
rapid is of little consequence at lower flows but can build to epic proportions at higher flows.
After Oregon Hole the run mellows out and you will soon pass under the bridge where you can
take-out at Myrtle Beach on river right or Smith River Forks just downstream on river left.
The Smith drainage is in the far northwest corner of California. From the coast, take highway 101
to Crescent City and then head up Highway 199 through Jedidiah Smith State Park and the community
of Hiouchi which is near the confluence where the Middle Fork joins the South Fork. If you are
coming in from Interstate 5, Highway 199 heads south from Grant’s Pass. Once you pass the
California border, it’s only about 10 miles until you start driving along the river.
Highway 199 parallels the river providing many options for access points.
Knopki Creek Road Bridge: At Highway 199 mile 30.0 turn on to Knopki Creek Road (Forest Road
18N07). Continue down this road to the bridge across the Middle Fork which is the put-in.
Informal access downstream of Siskiyou Road: A little over a mile downstream of the Siskiyou Road
Bridge at Highway 199 mile post 24.1 there is a pull-out that serves as a good take-out or an
alternative put-in if you want more warm-up before paddling the Siskiyou Gorge downstream
Siskiyou Gorge Access: This is an unmarked access at a large pull-out along Highway 199 at mile
post 23.1. It is the last take-out before the gorge or a put-in if you just want to run the short
gorge section down to Patrick Creek.
Patrick Creek Picnic Area: Located at Highway 199 mile post 22.0 with a 350’ trail to the
river, parking for 7 vehicles, and flush toilets. This is a take-out for the upper gorge or a
put-in for the fun class III run downstream.
Sandy Beach: Located at Highway 199 mile post 20.9 with a 255’ trail to the river, parking
for 10 vehicles, and vault toilet.
Madrona: Located at Highway 199 mile post 19.2 with parking for 10 vehicles, and vault toilet.
You can drive right to the river at this access point which also has 3 designated sites for
camping. This access is just downstream of Bridge Rapid and can be used as a put-in for a short
trip down to Panther Flat or a longer trip down through Gasquet.
Panther Flat Picnic Area: Located at Highway 199 mile post 16.75 with a 90’ trail to the
river, parking for 21 vehicles, and vault toilets. Camping is available at the Panther Flat
Campground. This is a standard take-out for runs that begin upstream at Patrick Creek.
Gasquet Water Treatment Plant: This an informal access at the confluence of the North Fork with
the Middle Fork. It is a standard take-out for kayakers running the North Fork. At Highway 199
mile post 14.3 in Gasquet, turn on to Middle Fork Gasquet Road. Follow this road 0.1 mile and
turn right onto Gasquet Flat Road and follow it 0.1 mile to the bridge across the Middle Fork. If
you park tight, you can get a few cars parked along the shoulder (please don't block
driveways). To reach the confluence, you will need to carry your boat downstream river right of
the bridge through the green gate, past the water treatment plant, and down to the confluence. It
is a short walk for kayaks but not practical for rafts.
Margie’s (Sims Camp, Shady Bend): Located at Highway 199 mile post 12.86 at the downstream
end of Gasquet (just as you pass the highway sign marking the entrance to Gasquet where the river
heads away from the road). The river is accessed by a 370’ trail and the site includes
parking for 10 vehicles, vault toilet, and screened clothes-changing area. Gentle trail slope
affords easy access for rafts and kayaks. The access point is a small mud/sand beach and the
river is a deep pool at this point. Adjacent to and in view of highway.
Mary Adams Peacock Bridge: Located at Highway 199 mile post 11.9 on west side of bridge with a
280’ trail to the river, parking for 20 vehicles, and vault toilet. This is a good put-in
if you are looking for a short warm-up prior to running the Middle Fork Gorge.
Middle Fork Gorge: Located at Highway 199 mile post 9.1 with a 55’ trail to the river and
parking for 7 vehicles. This serves as a put-in for those who just want to run the Gorge or a
take-out for those who are not up for it. If you want to take a look at the gorge, there is a
small pull-out at Highway 199 mile 8.45. From this point, you can look upstream to see the Nozzle
(although the view of the river right side of the drop is obstructed) and look down below you to
see Hole in the Wall. Keep in mind that road scouts never give an accurate perspective on the
Myrtle Beach and Smith River Forks Access: A mile and a half upstream of Hiouchi at Highway 199
mile post 7.2 you will see the turn for South Fork Smith Road and the bridge across the Middle
Fork. Myrtle Beach Access, the take-out, is right along Highway 199 on the downstream river right
side of this bridge and provides access on river right via a 55’ trail. The site has
parking for 20 cars and a vault toilet. A second access where you can drive down to the gravel
bar is available on river left. To reach it, turn onto South Fork Road and cross the bridge.
Continue down the road 0.2 mile to the Smith River Access. A parking area and restroom is at the
top but you can drive down to the gravel bar to load up (a good option for rafts).
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Last Updated: 2015-04-07 04:42:09