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River: Smith River – Middle Fork
Put in: Panther Flat
Take out: Middle Fork Gorge River Access
Class: III-
Distance: 8 Miles
Gauge: Oregon Hole Gorge (estimate)
Flow: 1800
Boat: Pyranha H2
Shuttle: 20
Info: Creekin’

Although this run starts in the middle fork, it soon joins the north fork and the water volume more than doubles. You can use the Gasquet gauge to find the flow at the start and the Oregon Hole gauge for the end. The beginning of this section is mostly class II+ boulder gardens which are pretty easy to ready and run. There are also a few drops and good wave trains. Scenery is great as the Smith river is always beautiful. I thought this was great practice for running boulder gardens since I didn’t have a lot of practice with it. I was able to tuck into eddies pretty easily and there are enough breaks to catch your breath. Lots of fun small surf waves I also noticed since I was given the mission to “Surf everything you can find!”  Unfortunately this lead to a swim in shallow water.

Confluence of the Middle and North Fork

After Mary Adams bridge, the rapids become shorter but also steeper and the scenery more gorge like. Make sure you can recognize the take out. I call this one “quit or commit!!!” since the Oregon Hole Gorge follows shortly.

Route Map

TAKE OUT: Take 101 to 199-E and just past Hiouchi look for the “Middle Fork River Access” on the right side. There is a pullout and a path down to the river.

PUT IN: Keep going on the 199 and you will come to Panther Flat campground on the left. You can go down to the picnic are and park right on the river. There are toilets here.

River: Smith River – Middle Fork
Put in: Patrick’s Creek
Take out: Panther Flat
Class: III (One IV)
Distance: 8 Miles
Gauge: Gasquet (estimate)
Flow: 1350
Boat: Pyranha H2
Shuttle: 20
Info: Creekin’


This section of the middle fork is intense!  It was non-stop class III action with one class IV right in the middle.  It has been knocked for having so-so scenery but I think that is just relative to other Smith River runs (which have epic scenery).  I never really noticed the scenery as I was too busy dodging holes.  The rapids start just after put in and don’t ever really stop.  I thought the run seemed creek-y at first since about half the river runs through brush and leaves a narrow section to be run around sharp bends.  After a few rapids the brush disappears and it is pretty constant boulder gardens.  Highway Rapid is very easy to spot as it starts just after the first bridge you come to.   You can get out and scout the rapid on the left side, or also portage there pretty easily.

The final rapid at Panther Flat (and one of the smallest)

There is really very little rest in this run, I got a very good cardio workout, not even including my two swims.  My roll was off on this run— I just couldn’t get my paddle angle right.  Swims generally should be avoided because the rapids were so long with very small pools below some of them.  I managed to get myself out of the water, but had to give up on the paddle and the boat.  I had some very good wranglers ready to pick up my pieces.  You can take out at Panther Flat or keep going on a slightly easier/mellowier stretch.

Route Map

TAKE OUT:  Panther Flat picnic area.  Take 101 to 199-W and follow it past Hiouchi until you see the Panther Flat campground turn out.  Follow the signs to the picnic area and you will be able to park right next to the river.  There are also toilets here.

PUT IN: Patrick’s Creek.  Keep going up 199-W and come to a bridge that says Patrick’s creek.  Turn before the bridge and there is parking there and a paved path down to the water and a flat concrete set up area.  Pretty nice.

River: Trinity River Main Stem
Put in: Past Hoopa
Take out: Klamath River confluence
Class: II (One III)
Distance: 11 Miles
Gauge: Trinity at Hoopa
Flow: 1000
Boat: Pyranha H2
Shuttle: 30
Info: Ca Creekin’

This is a beautiful run that is seldom done, possibly due to access issues.  I have heard stories of people having their cars vandalized or being harassed in Hoopa, so we put in a little bit past the town.

The beginning of the run is ordinary, but once you enter the Weitchpec gorge, its an absolutely beautiful run with fun class II between scenic floats.  I would highly recommend this for beginners since the final class III rapid is such an easy portage.

The final rapid is  solid class three and can be run as a long curving rapid on the left side, or as a short, somewhat technical drop on the right of a large boulder.  I’m not sure if the right side is possible at all flows.  I went with the right and it’s very pushy next to the boulder and so it tipped me and I went over the falls upside down.  Luckily I missed the sharp rock at the bottom of the falls.  The second time, I managed to get a decent boof off the falls and landed it.
Route Map

TAKE OUT:  Drive to the town of Weitchpec and pass over the  bridge for the Klamath river.  Then turn left immediate onto the CA-196 (?) and then the next left is a road down to the river.  There are some houses here and when we went there was a traditional ceremony going on but they were nice enough to let us leave a car there since the ceremony would be over by the time we finished the run.

PUT IN:  We put in past Hoopa where there was a dirt pullout and people fishing.  I’m not sure the name of the road but it was before Mill Creek.  I have heard that Mill Creek is a good put in also.

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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.

River: Mattole River
Put in: Mattole Canyon Creek
Take out: Honeydew Bridge
Class: II with III
Distance: 17.5 Miles
Gauge: Mattole near Ettersburg
Flow: 375
Boat: Pyranha H2
Shuttle: 30+ minutes
Info: Ca Creekin’

Canoe running one of the class II rapids.

I feel like this run definitely requires some beta before trying it. There is very little word on the internet about the middle part of the Mattole and the description from Schwind no longer does it justice. It is very much in the wilderness and a part of Humboldt county where I would not recommend trying to tromp through someone’s property to find a road. The only information I could dig up was from Ca Creeks and they had very little to say beyond mentioning that there is a class III rapid.  When I asked a canoeing friend for some beta she told me it was class I with a class III that could be portaged.  Then another friend had a story about some boaters who approached the landslide at night and got stuck when trying to portage around it, eventually having a search team sent after them.

This Mattole run was an adventure but it should definitely not be passed up.  If you are planning on running it, go with someone who knows the area.  If I didn’t have a local friend I would never have been able to find my way through the maze of winding dirt roads with no street signs.  The Ettersburg bridge was a no go for put in and so he was able to lead us to a much better spot.  We put in with no trouble and we were on our way with two dogs with life jackets in a canoe with my husband, David, who is an experience whitewater canoer.  Along with us we had brought our inexperienced friends who had never paddled before.  Remember we were expecting class I.  I’m glad they’re still speaking to us.

When we realized we had left all our food at home (over two hours away) we decided to run the entire stretch in one day.  The shuttle was a long process and we didn’t end up on the water until nearly 3pm.  So my first warning is that this run needs to be broken into a two day paddle or started early.  I was tired by the end, but not sore or grumpy so it’s definitely doable as a one day run.

The first few rapids are class I and you pass a few houses on the way out before entering into the true wilderness.  We saw a bald eagle, a bear, many deer and ducks.  There were some class II- rapids sprinked in and they were lots of fun.  There were rapids constistently enough to keep me entertained.  Especially when I was expecting a boring float.  Around the midpoint, houses appear and and a road does come down to the river.  I have no knowledge of this road and how you would find it, and it has no name so honestly I would not recommend trying to drive down it.  Nor would I recommend getting out of your boat in this area.  After you pass the houses, there are a few sand bars that would make ideal camp spots.


The wrap rock on river left has been the undoing of a canoe.

At this point it was starting to get late and the rapids also got noticeable harder.  The flow was about 400 when we started and dropped throughout the day.  The later rapids included a solid class II boulder garden, a drop around a wrap rock that required a scout but ended up being pretty clean (though a friend’s canoe died here), and some other fun little II/II- rapids that were mostly wave trains.  Just as we were starting to feel tired and cold, we came up the “landslide.”  I expected something that had happened more recently, but it looks fairly old as the slopes above are mostly grown over now, but the river is now littered with boulders from the size of a keg to the size of a house.  The first rapid splits with a bouldery island in the middle.  I missed the right side although my buddy was signalling me to take it.  I didn’t even see the option.  The left side ended up required some snaking around boulder and some narrow chute like drops.  We got out here to scout the right side and saw that it was two wide clean class III drops.  My buddy Rito decided to go back and run those.  We scouted the rest of the run and we saw a sea of boulders.  There were some clear lines that looks like it wouldn’t be too hard, but then the river bent sharply to the left and we couldn’t see what the next moves were.

Start of the Class III... not so bad... yet...

Unloading the dogs and inexperienced boaters, we ran the class III.  One I passed my scouted line, I missed the swing over to the clear right and got pinned on a boulder.  I swam this rapid and ended up having to have my boat rescued.  Then I got back in to run the rest of it, which looked like a cleaner but still technical run.  I still missed it and swam again.  The final part of the rapid is more like a class II boulder garden with much lower gradient.  My boat ran it, but I didn’t.  I ended up with a broken tailbone from the ride through the class III section on my rear.  This section is an easy portage… if you are a dog.  But not so easy for people stumbling around the rocky and brushy steep bank.  I don’t even know how you would get a canoe through there.

There are two more class II rapids before the run eases back into class I for the next mile until you come right into Honeydew.  The take out is an obvious bridge.  I think our friends couldn’t wait to get out of the water and have a beer.

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Directions to put in: (I hope I am remembering this right): From Eureka, take 101-S and exit Redway.  When you get to redway center, you will see a road to the right (before the store) that says it goes to Ettersburg.  Follow that through Briceland until you get to another split and follow the signs to Honeydew/Ettersburg.  Pass the school and then you will get to the bridge.  I’ve heard you can put in here, but it looks tricky.  For an easier sport, don’t cross the bridge, go right on a road before it, and follow it over another bridge to a fork.  Go left at the fork, cross a super scary looking bridge and then take a sharp left that goes down hill to the creek.  The creek runs right into the Mattole.

Directions to take out: From Ettersburg bridge, continue along the same road that came from Briceland and follow the windy narrow road all the way to the Honeydew store.  Looks short on a map, but it takes about 30 minutes.  Park near the bridge.  The take out is on the river right side of the bridge and is steep.  I also saw a baby rattlesnake there.  And poison oak.   I recommend leaving a vehicle there that is capable of taking all the boats and people (and dogs) back to put in.  Not a fun road to have to drive more that twice.

River:         Clear Creek (Tributary of the Klamath)
Put in:        Slipper View River Access
Take out:    Confluence with Klamath
Class:          II/III
Distance:     5.5 Miles
Gauge:        USGS 11521500 (Indian Creek)
Flow:          1000
Boat:           Inflatable Kayak
Shuttle:      20 minutes
Info:            AWW, darinm

This is a fantastic run that I did with a large group of people who were in hard shell kayaks while I was in an inflatable.  I have a friend who also did this in a whitewater canoe.  It’s a solid class II with a couple of class III rapids that have easy lines if you can find them.  I would say that some of the kayakers were novice and I am a beginner and I swam twice and the other novices had at least one swim, but nothing scary.

Scenery was top notch.  There were beautiful gorge walls and waterfalls, but at this flow we definitely moved past it rather quickly.  The creek earns its name with the crystal clear cool water and it’s very interesting to see the water where it meets the murkier klamath at the confluence.

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Directions to take out:  From Eureka, take the 101-N to 299-E to Willow Creek.  Then take 96-N towards Happy Camp.  Before you get there, you will cross clear creek on a bridge.  Pull over immediately after the bridge.

Directions to put in:  After take out, keep going on the 96 and you will come to a road on the left.  Forest route 15N32.  Take it until you see a sign for slippery view river access.  There is a short downhill hike to the put in.