Do I dare say this river is the most scenic and fun Class IV rafting trip in California? No, because you are very likely to freeze your but off. This trip is normally done during or soon February or March rainstorms.

"The North Fork Smith is one of the loveliest wilderness white water runs in the country, but because it it is so remote and because summer flows are too low, it is rarely floated."California White Water by Jim Cassady and Fryar Calhoun

The North Fork of the Smith River begins in Oregon's Kalmiopsis Wilderness and the normal put-in is just south of the Oregon-California border. You'll enjoy a fairly long and very scenic (unless it's raining) drive to put-in at Major Moore's where you'll get a sense of the remote are you're in. Upon arrival you'll immediately be awestruck by the clarity and greenish color of the water. Due to the unique serpentine geology upstream, the North Fork runs clear even when the water is high.

The North Fork of the Smith River

The North Fork of the Smith River

This run starts off with some great warm up rapids. After Diamond Creek enters on the left side the rapids begin to increase in intensity. The Redwall Gorge starts around mile four with a number of great Class III and IV rapids. The rest of the run is scattered with Class III and IV rapids.

There are several wonderful stops on the North Fork to visit waterfalls and side creeks. At most of these stops, you'll have a chance to check out the Darlingtonia Californica (aka "Pitcher Plant" or "Cobra Lily." This is a rare carnivorous plant that uses ultraviolet guides and slippery wax to lure insects and spiders into it's inner workings.

Darlingtonia Californica are also known as "Pitcher Plants"

Darlingtonia Californica are also known as "Pitcher Plants"

You're a lucky one if you get a chance to paddle the North Fork of the Smith. Just remember to bring plenty of warm boating gear and a thermos full of hot chocolate.

Trip Highlights

Mile 0: Put-in at Major Moore's (also known as Browns Flat) just upstream of the Low Divide Road Bridge.

Putting in at Major Moore's on the North Fork of the Smith River

Putting in at Major Moore's on the North Fork of the Smith River

Mile 1.5: Diamond Creek enters from the left side. The section below here is known as the Redwall Gorge.

Mile 3.1: Scout Rapid (IV+) is the most difficult rapid at most flows and should be scouted from the right.

In the heart of Redwall Gorge between Scout and Ledge Rapids

In the heart of Redwall Gorge between Scout and Ledge Rapids

Mile 3.4: Ledge Rapid (IV) typically has a big ledge hole that needs to be avoided.

Mile 4: Still Creek enters from the right side and marks the end of the Redwall Gorge. This is a great place to regroup and have lunch.

Mile 8.35: Golf Course (IV) is a long rapid with some big holes at the bottom.

Mile 8.8: Peridotite Creek enters from the left side.

Peridotite Creek entering the North Fork of the Smith River

Peridotite Creek entering the North Fork of the Smith River

Mile 9.25: The Grotto is a beautiful waterfall you can paddle behind.

Paddling Stony Creek into the North Fork of the Smith River

Paddling Stony Creek into the North Fork of the Smith River

Mile 13.2: Kayakers can take out at the confluence with the Middle Fork of the Smith by hiking up the rocks next to the steel pipe to Gasquet Flat Road. It would be tough to take a raft out here so rafters typically continue down to Margie's River Access.

Mile 14.8: Take-out at Margie's River Access.

Author: Zachary Collier

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