Smith, N. Fork, California, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-V (for normal flows)|
|No. Smith At Gasquet|
|dream-162||600 - 4000 cfs||III-V||136d08h19m||500 cfs (too low)|
|SMITH R NR CRESCENT CITY CA|
|usgs-11532500||2000 - 7000 cfs||III-V||00h19m||220 cfs (too low)|
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,
Other Information Sources:
Jefferson State Creeking- blog
Oregon Kayaking NF Smith River.
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
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|