Smith River (Umpqua), Oregon, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-III+(V) (for normal flows)|
|SIUSLAW RIVER NEAR MAPLETON, OR|
|usgs-14307620||2300 - 4000 cfs||II-III+(V)||00h46m||5610 cfs (too high)|
Less than an hour from the coast, this playful section makes a delightful diversion for the whitewater paddler who happens to be cruising the coastal highway. The Smith River upstream from the North Fork Confluence is mostly class 1, but in this brief section it winds its way through a series of bedrock layers forming small ledges and slides. The river meanders relative to the angle of the rock, sometimes crossing the ledges at an angle, other times perpendicular. At low flows there are pools and the ledges are shallow enough to be slow going, but small surf waves and holes still abound. At medium and higher flows the holes will become more retentive, and the surf waves taller. The entire run is roadside so you can scout as you shuttle. Everything but the falls, and perhaps the big slide after the falls, is fairly straightforward.
At Smith River Falls (mile 3.9) a portage may be in order. We talked to a fisherman who said he ran the falls in an aluminum drift boat at "lots higher water" but at low flows the left channel lands on a shelf and the right channel (main flow) has a sticky hole. Smith River Falls may be recognized from upstream by the concrete of the fish ladder on river right, which will be decorated with sunbathers if the weather is nice. At low flows there is an easy portage around the falls on river left; just slide your boat over the ledges. It is possible to portage on river right on top of the fish ladder as well. At higher flows these options will close off. Some of the best surfing is immediately below the falls.
Amusing slides and small ledge drops continue to the takeout. On a right bend at river mile 4.3 is the largest slide, after a pedestrian bridge overhead. There are rocks at the bottom; one troublesome stone has been painted red. Below here the ledges gradually shrink until you reach the takeout, a roadside pullout with easy access. Very high tides may reach this far up the river.
We discovered this run after investigating the Upper Smith River class I-II float with wood obstacles that is some 40+ miles long and written up in the 5th Edition of Soggy Sneakers, but not here on the AW site.
No permits required.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|3.9||Smith River Falls||V|