Smith, N. Fork - Low Divide Road (near OR-CA border) to Gasquet (confluence with Middle Fork)

Smith, N. Fork, California, US


Low Divide Road (near OR-CA border) to Gasquet (confluence with Middle Fork)

Usual Difficulty III-V (for normal flows)
Length 13 Miles

North Fork Smith

North Fork Smith
Photo by Josh Strange

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
No. Smith At Gasquet
dream-162 600 - 4000 cfs III-V -22h13m 3600 cfs (running)
usgs-11532500 2000 - 7000 cfs III-V 01h01m 3800 cfs (running)

River Description

The water on this run is always crystal clear and it's known as one of the most scenic runs in northern California. Good flows are available in the winter rainy season, October to April, when an average of 92 inches of rain falls. Summers are dry, so the rivers get too low for boating. 

Nick Sinderson writes
Yesterday 1/2/11 I made my 20th trip down this run and every trip confirms my first impressions...that this is one of the most uniquely beautiful class 3/4 river runs anywhere and I count myself lucky to have it in my neck of the woods. There are a few things to know that will help any trip down this run;
1)Bearfoot Brad, one of the worlds best shuttle drivers (707)457-3365.  for a small fee he will save you hours of driving and fill you with tons of local info. (he also posts the daily report of conditions on
2)forget about cfs this run is calibrated from the paddlers gauge at the confluence of the NF & MF. For a first time for the class 3/4 boater I'd say 9.5 to 10.5 is the ideal level ... Swimmers and gear can be easily rounded up, you'll have time to look at the scenery and there are still 8 or so class 4's and lots 3' to 4' high wave trains with the rare 5'-6' high wave to spice things up. Above 12 I hear things start to get big and fast, missed rolls at that level and above could result in long swims, lost gear and a epic hike out.
3)lots of surf waves so if your comfortable in class 4 in the playboat... bring it.
4)bring sun glasses on sunny days. With a north to south orientation and a low winter sun, the glare can be blinding.

Take-out: There are two options for a take-out.

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 scout your take-out at the confluence, you will need to walk downstream river right of the bridge through the green gate, past the water treatment plant, and down to the confluence. It is a short hike with kayaks but not practical for rafts.

Margie’s (Sims Camp, Shady Bend): This is a formal USFS access site 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.

Put in: where Low Divide Road crosses the river. The shuttle route climbs through the mountains west of the river, then drops back down to the river about 25 miles from the Highway 199 turn off.  Driving time is around 1 to 1.5 hours one way. The road is reportedly not plowed in the winter but is kept open by locals with 4 wheel drive.

Shuttle Option:  Most folks coordinate a shuttle driver in Gasquet to ride with them up to the put-in.    Bearfoot Brad, (707)457-3365,  

Other Information Sources:
Ca Creeks 
Jefferson State Creeking- blog
Oregon Kayaking NF Smith River.
Oregon Rafting
Nate Dogg, blog report
NF Smith at 10' - Vimeo Video
For books, see: Cassady & Calhoun, Holbek & Stanley, Schwind, Penny, Soggy Sneakers
Smith - Wild & Scenic River 
Six Rivers National Forest
Smith River Recreation Area

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-04-07 04:46:03

Rapid Descriptions

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Associated Projects

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    American Whitewater is working to protect the wild rivers of Southwestern Oregon and Northern California from the threats of nickel strip mines.