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Difficulty III-V
Length 13.3 Miles
Flow Range 1000 - 6000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 46 minutes ago 231 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 03/22/2015 3:43 pm

River Description

This Wild and Scenic South Fork Smith River is generally divided into three sections. Multiple access points along the way allow boaters to paddle just one of the sections or combine different sections. It's a good river for groups of varied skill. Everyone can join in on the middle class III section which is plenty of fun and incredibly scenic, and then the more skilled paddlers in the group can do one of the gorges.
1) Upper Gorge, Class V, 5.2 miles
The Upper Gorge is a run that begins in the National Forest and requires a short hike on the South-Kelsey Trail. Upper Gorge Description by Jason Rackley.
2) South Fork Smith, Class III, 11.7 miles (shorter options possible)
The standard run on the South Fork Smith is a good class III run from Steven Bridge down to Craig's Beach.
Boulder Creek is one of the notable drops near the top of the run where a large midstream boulder divides the flow.
Sand Camp Access is a possible intermediate access point that is a good option particularly when flows are lower or if you are continuing on down through the gorge and just looking for a shorter warm up.
After Sand Camp, two newer bridges, that were built to route the road away from the landslide-prone slope on river left, cross the river. A fun class III+ rapid is in the section between the two bridges.
As you pass Coon Creek, you will come to Coon Creek Rapid, a straightforward class III with a boulder towards the end of the drop on river right that is easy to navigate around. Broken Paddle comes up next and although it is a named rapid, it is characteristic of several of the unnamed class III rapids along this section. 
The highlight of this section comes near the end at Surprise, a fun class IV at an obvious horizon line with good scouting from river right. A hole forms on the river right so the preferred line is generally down the left where you may need to negotiate a rock outcrop towards the bottom of the drop. This rapid is a good test for those planning to continue on downstream through the gorge and if that is not your intent, it's always easy to portage this drop on river right.
You will soon arrive at Craig's Beach, the take-out for class III paddlers and the start of the class IV/V fun for those continuing on down the gorge.
3) South Fork Gorge, Class IV/V, 1.6 miles
The South Fork Gorge is a classic class IV/V  run of approximately 2 miles in length with half a dozen great rapids. The river runs right along the road and although you can't really see down into the gorge while driving the shuttle, you can get out and spend some time looking at it from above. From Craig's Beach the run begins with the Slalom Course, a fun stretch through a long sequence of boulder garden rapids with multiple routes to choose from and plenty of spots to eddy out.
The entrance to the gorge is marked by a fun double drop down the right side. Soon after this drop you will want to grab an eddy to scout Good Luck!, one of the bigger drops in the gorge. You can get a good overhead view of the rapid from river right. The preferred line can vary with flow but generally involves avoiding a hole on the right and a large midstream rock towards the bottom of the drop.
After a short recovery stretch another horizon line awaits. An easy scout is available on river left for The Boof.
Two final drops await. On the first, the main flow heads down the left with a tricky line but a fun slot is available between a couple boulders to river right. The next drop is a steep flume that slams into the gorge wall on river left. The trick is to stay upright and avoid a situation where you are trying to roll up against the wall. If you make it past this point, you also need to be aware of the wall on river right just below that can also present problems for out-of-control boaters particularly at higher flows. 
The remainder of the gorge is a short float out to the bridge. Take-out on river right just below the bridge and hike up the trail to the Smith River Forks Access area.
Check out Jason Rackley's South For Gorge Description.
A mile and a half upstream of Hiouchi, turn south onto South Fork Smith Road. You will first cross the Middle Fork bridge and at 0.2 miles down the road you will reach the Smith River Forks Access before crossing the South Fork Bridge. Park at this access site for the 668' take-out trail that comes up on downstream river right of the South Fork Bridge. The trail is to the left of the toilets and signed for Second Bridge Beach (a road heads down to the gravel bar on the Middle Fork serving as a take-out for that run).
To reach the put-in, head back out to the road and continue upstream across the South Fork Bridge (at mile 0.4) and turn left after crossing the bridge to stay on South Fork Smith Road. At 2.0 miles down South Fork Road, you will come to Craig's Beach Access. This serves as a put-in if you just want to run the gorge or a take-out for those who are not up for it. At 7.2 miles you will reach the Sand Camp Access. This makes for a nice warm-up and a good day-trip with plenty of fun whitewater before you reach the Gorge. The upper put-in is at Steven Memorial Bridge at mile 12.6 which can also serve as a take-out for the Upper Gorge. 
To reach the put-in for the Upper Gorge. Continue on to the turn for FR 15N01 which is 13.5 miles from Highway 199. Follow this road up 3.5 miles and then turn left on FR 15N39 which winds its way 2 miles down towards the river and the South-Kelsey Trailhead (picnic tables, vault toilet, and parking for 10 cars). It's about a mile hike down the trail to the river.

Rapid Descriptions

Upper South Fork Gorge

Class - N/A Mile - -18.7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The Upper South Fork Gorge requires a short hike in to run the approximately 1 mile gorge.

Steven Memorial Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - -13.5

Access to the river down a 700’ trail. Site includes parking for 15 vehicles and a vault toilet.

Boulder Creek Rapid

Class - III+ Mile - -9.4

A named drop in the upper portion of the run where a large midstream boulder splits the flow.

Sand Camp Access

Class - N/A Mile - -8

This is a nice intermediate access point that makes a good put-in. The site has a 460’ trail to the water, parking for 20 vehicles, and vault toilet. Site characteristics include a sand/cobble beach, large pool, and primitive camp.

Coon Creek

Class - III+ Mile - -4.8

A fairly straightforward rapid just past Coon Creek which enters from river right. A large boulder is near the bottom of the drop on river right.

Broken Paddle

Class - III Mile - -3.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

One of several class III drops in this section.


Class - IV+ Mile - -2.5

The biggest drop on the run until you enter the South Fork Gorge. It can be easily scouted on the right. Standard lines avoid the hole on river right.

Craig's Beach Access

Class - N/A Mile - -1.8

The river is accessed by a 400’ trail to the water. The site includes parking for 20 vehicles and a vault toilet. Downstream from this point the rivers the South Fork Gorge with the most challenging class IV/V rapids on the run. Some use this as a put-in for the short run through the gorge or take-out for runs that begin upstream.

Slalom Course

Class - III+ Mile - -1.7

The Slalom Course is a fun boulder garden section that gives you a little quick warm up before entering the gorge.

Gorge Entrance

Class - IV Mile - -1.2

The drop marking the entrance to the gorge is run down the right and consists of a fun double drop sequence.

Good Luck!

Class - V Mile - -1.1

Good Luck! is generally considered the most demanding drop in the gorge. Scouting can be done from up high on river right or down near river level on river left. A hole develops toward river right midway through the drop.

The Boof

Class - IV+ Mile - -1

A fun rapid with alternate lines depending on flows. A good scout is available from river left.


Class - IV Mile - -0.85

A fun slot move down the right or follow the main flow down the left being sure to avoid the holes and getting hung up on the wall.

Final Rapid

Class - IV+ Mile - -0.8

The final major rapid in the gorge drops off a horizon line through a fun flume that then slams into the bedrock wall on river left and then back to river right if flows are higher.


Gage Descriptions

The gauge is for the main Smith River. Flows on the South Fork will be approximately 33% of the flow represented on this gauge.  

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

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.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2014-03-09 n/a Fatality High Water Read More
2010-01-16 n/a Near Miss/Rescue One Boat Trip Read More




Thomas O'Keefe


Megan Hooker


Matt Muir


Paul Martzen




Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1204370 03/22/15 Thomas O'Keefe access points updated
1204351 03/19/15 Thomas O'Keefe description added
1204229 02/26/15 Megan Hooker updated web link to OK
1204371 03/22/15 Thomas O'Keefe photo edit
1190093 06/13/04 n/a n/a
1196527 11/16/09 Paul Martzen
1204362 03/21/15 Thomas O'Keefe photo added
1204369 03/22/15 Thomas O'Keefe description updated
1197854 06/20/10 Rob Delete/fix broken links.