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River: South Fork Smith River
Put in: Steven’s Bridge
Take out: Just before Surprise
Class: II-III+
Distance: 9 Miles
Gauge: South Smith Near Hiouchi
Flow: 1500
Boat: Pyranha H2
Shuttle: 20 minutes
Info: Smith River Rafting
Ca Creekin’

Repeated this run two times in two days now that I am more comfortable running at about a Class III level.  Also this was done in the fall about two or three days after a heavy rain and so the level was perfect at about 1500 cfs and dropping to probably 1200 on the second run.  The days were sunny and the water was perfectly clear just like I remembered the Smith to be.  At this flow, most of the wave trains are decent size and fun, and its a nice Class II at the upper section of this run.

Right before Rock Creek Ranch is the Pillow Rapid which you can scout from the road on your way to the put in.  It’s the only obvious giant boulder and about half the river tries to ride up onto the side of it in a terrifyingly huge pillow.  But there is a definite clean line with some sharp turns around partially and sometimes fully submerged large boulders.  I managed this rapid with my heart pounding.

After the Ranch house there are a few more fun Class II,and you will then cross under one south fork road bridge.  The rapid there is a stout class II that broke a friend’s paddle.  The second bridge is more commonly called the “Bridge Rapid” and this is where things went bad for me.  It’s definitely Class III and pretty long while navigating a bend in the river over some submerged boulders.  This created a very awkward squirrely wave train that tipped me at the top.  The first time I ran it, I ended up executing a combat roll but by the time I was up, I was going over a pourover backwards and went back over in the hole.  So there was a swim there.  The second time on this run, I went over at the bend and tried to roll a couple of time before I felt something grab my paddle.  I swam for a ways and when I recovered my boat and paddle, I realize the paddle was in one piece, but cracked all the way through the shaft.  I had to hike out and hitchhike back to the put in cars.

The first time I ran this, I managed to continue along through a few more class II rapids, including a boulder that I attempted to boof.  I went over into what looked like a small hole, but I didn’t have enough velocity to punch through it.  Next thing I knew, I was upside down and any attempts at a roll felt futile.  When I finally pulled my skirt, I realized I was being recirculated and managed to gulp air on a few rounds in the whole before it finally spit me out.  It felt a lot like being caught in the washing machine on a wave in the ocean.  When I flushed out and looked back, I saw my boat just bobbing in there behind the pourover.  It only took a few more minutes before it was ejected also.

After I got in my boat, I was so flustered and running late for a field trip, and so I just decided to hike out and hitchhike back to Rock Creek Ranch where I was meeting my students.  I found out later, that Surprise was just around the next bend and I could have finished the run.  Oh well.  There’s always next time…

PUT IN: Drive up South Fork Road from the 199 until you cross Steven’s Bridge, which is marked with a sign. It is a one lane bridge over the south fork. Just past the bridge is a parking lot on the left side. You have to hike down a steep trail to the river.

TAKE OUT: Craig’s Beach, which is a daytime use area on South Fork Road with outhouses. There is a long trail down to the river.