The water on this run is always crystal clear and it's known as one of the most scenic runs on the West Coast. 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.
In addition to the clear water, the several waterfalls pour into the river in beautiful cascades with pitcher plants and azaelas (a trip in spring will find them in bloom) lining the banks. There are a couple good lunch spots and if you really wanted to take it all in, an overnight self-support trip is also a possibility. Bottom line is this is a spectacular river trip on a Wild and Scenic River.
Most of the rapids can be boat scouted and at moderate flows this is a great class IV pool-drop run. The one exception is Scout Rapid where it is helpful to hop out on the right and take a look at the sequence of moves you need to make. As flows increase, the pools disappear and the river becomes one continuous ride of big whitewater. Keep in mind that the run is very remote and you are a long way from any roads. A hike out would be epic so hold onto your gear and don't put on when the water is too high for your skill level.
Since this is a long run a comfortable river cruiser is generally the boat of choice, but experienced boaters can also have a lot of fun in a play boat. While overcast rainy days can be the norm on this run, the river can be absolutely spectacular on a sunny day. Bring a pair of sunglasses as you will be paddling south and the low angle sun on winter or early spring days 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 as practical for rafts.
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: It takes a couple hours to get in to the put-in so most folks coordinate a shuttle driver in Gasquet to take them up to the put-in. Bearfoot Brad, (707) 457-3365, firstname.lastname@example.org. Other Information Sources:Ca Creeks Jefferson State Creeking- blogOregon Kayaking NF Smith River.Nate Dogg, blog reportNF Smith at 10' - Vimeo Video
For books, see: Cassady & Calhoun, Holbek & Stanley, Schwind, Penny, Soggy SneakersSmith - Wild & Scenic River Six Rivers National ForestSmith River Recreation Area
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 dreamflows.com)
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
Many locals reference the flow by the staff gage painted on the pipes at the take-out at the confluence where the North Fork joins the Middle Fork. For a first time class 3/4 boater 9.5 to 10.5' is an ideal level. Rapids are pool drop and 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 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.
Daily Flows Realtime Flows Dreamflows Home
The gauge graph below is for the main Smith River. Flows on the North Fork will be on average about 33% of the flow represented on this gauge. However, the actual ratio varies dramatically with different weather patterns.
NOAA Flow Prediction page estimates flow on the main fork for the next 4 days.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Take-out at Confluence
Azaela in Bloom
North Fork Smith rapid
North Fork Smith boof
Floating the North Fork Smith
Scouting Scout Rapid
North Fork Smith first rapid
North Fork Smith put-in
Low Divide Road
View from the Ridge
Scout Rapid entrance
North Fork Smith
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
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Earlier this month the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission unanimously voted to designate the waters of the North Fork Smith River in southwest Oregon as the first Outstanding Resource Waters in the Pacific Northwest.
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!
The Oregon Water Resources Department recently proposed a new rule that will protect the instream uses of the Smith River and its tributaries. The rule is a critical step in proactively safeguarding the fish, wildlife, and recreation uses of the waters of the Smith River watershed in Oregon from ill-advised water development such as large-scale mining proposals. The agency is requesting public comment by 5 p.m. on October 28th, and we encourage you to weigh in!
Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission is considering whether to protect the North Fork Smith and its tributaries under the Clean Water Act's highest type of water quality protection. The river is threatened by a nickel strip mine proposal in its headwaters, and you can help protect the North Fork Smith and its tributaries by weighing in.
The North Fork Smith River needs your help. An international corporation has their sights set on developing a nickel strip mine on a tributary of Baldface Creek, which is a tributary of the North Fork Smith River. Both are whitewater gems with pristine water quality that also provide strong salmon and steelhead habitat and supply drinking water for residents downstream.
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