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North Fork Smith River

With the rocky terrain it's no wonder that on the North Fork Smith water levels jump dramatically when it rains, making it an ideal fall run.

Friday after running the Oregon Hole gorge we drove into Crescent City and met up with quite a few kayakers from the bay area, who were kind enough to let us use the hotel hot tub with them. We discussed plans of hopefully creeking the next day, provided it rained that night. Unfortunately it didn’t rain Friday night, and Saturday morning we looked at depressingly low creeks, and followed the herd of cars up to the shuttle house in Gasquet for the North Fork of the Smith. Locals scrambled around trying to find enough drivers for all the people, and we spent way too long at the take out organizing gear. I think a total of six shuttle drivers ended up being needed between three groups on the water Saturday. Eventually we arrived at the put in about 11:30 after an hour and a half long shuttle on dirt roads, and were rewarded with stunning views before putting on the water. Roughly 1,500cfs flowing by in the background.

Our large group about to put on in late November 2007. Flows were at 16' on the gauge in the morning, and 22,000 at Jedidiah Smith.

A bit more than 1,500 cfs this time!

I’d heard this was a beautiful class IV run with world-class scenery. We had a flow of 1500, and while the rapids were entertaining, there was quite a bit of flat and mild class II-III throughout the run. Red wall gorge, the first set of class IV rapids. 8-9' on the Gauge in the photograph.

 Amazingly this all goes well with enough water to cover all the rocks seen here. At those flows we rarely stop, avoiding eddy lines in the gorge.

Rafting is great fun on the North Fork Smith too!

The scenery on the North Fork Smith is stellar, at low flows you have plenty of time to soak it in. I was surprised that it was more high desert scenery than coastal. Matt from Ashland at the Still Creek break spot, 1/3 of the way down.

What a way to spend the day after Thanksgiving, another lunch break at Still Creek.

This run has more waterfalls coming in from the side than any other I have ever been on. We enjoy a few during a break 2/3 of the way through the run. Paddlers enjoy the wonderful Grotto.

At high flows one of the largest rapids on the run is "Serpentine Slide" and it gets some big holes when the rocks are covered. At lower flows (9.5' in photo) it's a wonderful boulder garden. Matt and Clint enjoying the fall paddling through Serpentine Slide.

Erik Larson and Tom Peil on the same.

David Maurier enters Golf Course at higher flows.

Pitcher plans were everywhere on the riverbank, fun to see. This run is well worth doing, although at lower flows it's a long day at 15 miles.

This run would be a great overnight run for class III/IV boaters wanting to enjoy wilderness style scenery, although camping spots are scarce. With higher flows I absolutely loved the run. Downriver play is epic, the flats disappear and he rapids stay class III-IV but the consequence jumps to IV+ because if you do swim, equipment is going to go a long ways downstream. Not a problem at lower flows though.

At high flows the only down side is the long shuttle, and hour and a half one way. Helping mitigate the shuttle problem, Barefoot Brad is a reliable and trustworthy shuttle driver who only charges $40 a day and has some great stories, and also cleans up all the trash on the road! If you insist on running shuttle yourself:

Take Out: From Highway 199 West make a right onto Middle Fork Road in the small town of Gasquet. Make a following right onto Gasquet Flat Road, cross the Middle Fork Smith and park on the left, where there is an obvious trail to the gauge where you take out at.

Put-In: Return to Highway 199 and head West. After crossing the Middle Fork Smith, make a right onto USFS 17N49. Stay on the main road and make a right when you T into Low Divide Road, and follow Low Divide Road to the North Fork Smith.

There is a great dreamflows estimate gauge for the North Fork Smith. It has a big range, 1,000 (Class III) to 10,000 (IV+)

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