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Difficulty II-V
Length 22 Miles
Gauge SMITH R NR CRESCENT CITY CA
Flow Range 1000 - 6000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 47 minutes ago 12700 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 04/07/2015 4:42 am

River Description


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 your trip.
 
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 before that.
 
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.
 
Check out Oregon Kayaking River page for some descriptions of this gorge.
 
Logistics:
 
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.
 
Access Sites:
 
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 gradient.
 
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).

 

Rapid Descriptions

Sisikyou Fork Road Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - -19.9
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Patrick Creek

Class - N/A Mile - -16.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Patrick Creek marks the start of an excellent but moderate, class 3 (one class 4) section of whitewater.

 

 

Sandy Beach Access

Class - N/A Mile - -15.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Highway Rapid

Class - IV Mile - -14.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Hardest rapid between Patrick's Creek and Panther Flat Campground is on a sharp left hand turn shortly after the river passes under the highway from south to north. This rapid gets harder as flows rise, but can be scouted or portaged with some effort on river left.

Madrona Access

Class - N/A Mile - -13.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Panther Flat Campground

Class - N/A Mile - -10.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Panther Flat can be a good take out for those paddling from Patrick's Creek.

NF Smith Confluence

Class - N/A Mile - -8.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The town of Gasquet lies between the highway on the south and the river on the north.  The NF Smith meets the middle fork near the upstream end of town.  A bridge crosses the MF just before the confluence. 

Margie's River Access

Class - N/A Mile - -6.8

Mary Adams Peacock Bridge Access

Class - N/A Mile - -5.5

Crotch

Class - III Mile - -4.2

Cars

Class - III Mile - -3.9

Brent's Hole

Class - III Mile - -3.3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Middle Fork Gorge Access

Class - N/A Mile - -2.5

Nozzle

Class - V Mile - -1.8

Hole in the Wall

Class - V Mile - -1.7

Oregon Hole

Class - IV+ Mile - -1.6

Myrtle Beach Access

Class - N/A Mile - -0.4

Smith River Forks Access

Class - N/A Mile - -0.3

Comments

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Nick Sinderson
|
7 years ago

the run from Patricks Ck. to Panther Flat is a class 3 to 3+ classic. With somewhere between 15 to 20 class 3 rapids in the 5+miles of the run. The run stays consistant with rapids from the start to the end. Of course it also has class 4 Bridge rapid too. I have been down this run in excess of 50 times and enjoy it now as much as the first time down. Both playboats and river running boats will find lots of fun waves and eddys to play with. The stated maximum flow should be increased as we find 12' on the Jed Smith gauge to be good fun, as the river speeds up and wave size increases. Bridge rapid does get harder the higher the flow goes but can be portaged (and scouted) with a little bit of effort on river left. I've always used 20% of Jed Smith gauge flow to estimate the cfs for this run. The run is doable to as low as 500cfs but 800cfs (2,500 & 4,000cfs@ Jed Smith) would decrease the # of rocks you will hit.

Gauge Description


The flow graphed below is for the main fork below where the three forks join together.  Each fork should then contribute approximately 1/3 of the total flow.  Flow at the upper MF put in, 6 miles above Patrick's Creek might be 1/8 to 1/10 of the flow at Jedediah Park.  Flow at the take out, just above the SF confluence will be in the 2/3 range.  Actual flows will vary tremendously with different rainfall patterns.

NOAA Flow Prediction page estimates flow on the main fork for the next 4 days.

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Directions Description


We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

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News

article main photo

BLM and USFS Issue 20 Year Protection for Kalmiopsis Rivers! (CA/OR)

2017-01-13 12:00:00-05
Megan Hooker

On January 12, 2017, the BLM and Forest Service announced a 20-year halt to new mining activities in the watersheds of the North Fork Smith, Illinois, Pistol River and Hunter Creek in Oregon. American Whitewater celebrates this important milestone with the conservation and recreation partners that we've worked with, and thanks Representatives DeFazio and Huffman and Senators Wyden and Merkley for their dedication to protecting this place. And we thank YOU too for standing up for these wild rivers!

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