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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.

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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.

View Interactive Map on MapMyFitness.com

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: South Fork Smith River
Put in: Steven’s Bridge
Take out: Rock Creek Ranch
Class: II
Distance: 5 Miles
Gauge: South Smith Near Hiouchi
Flow: 6000— way too high  
Boat: Stearns Pivot Inflatable Kayak
Shuttle: 15 minutes
Info: Smith River Rafting
Ca Creekin’

This was a great run, but it was going to fast for me to enjoy it without being completely engulfed by fear. I wasn’t really feeling like a swim at 6000 cfs. But after I started to calm down, I could really enjoy the big wave trains. On your drive in, it’s wise to scout the one class III/IV drop which is something called “Pillow.” Know how to recognize it, because it’s an easy portage.. or run it if you’re daring. The rest of the run is solid class II. If you continue past Rock Creek Ranch there are other class III rapids before the traditional take out.

View Interactive Map on MapMyFitness.com

River:         Smith
Put in:        Slant Bridge
Take out:    Charlie Rd
Class:          II-
Distance:     8 Miles
Gauge:        JED
Flow:          4500
Boat:           Hard Shell Kayak
Shuttle:      20 minutes
Info:            Kayak Lunartics

This scenic run is great for beginners more interested in the view than rapids.  There were a few class II- rapids to run but overall it was just fun and mellow.  It’s a good float for an IK, but I enjoyed it as my first run in a hard shell where I didn’t have to roll or go for a swim!

View Interactive Map on MapMyFitness.com

Directions to Put In:  From Eureka, take 101-N to Crescent City and then take 199-E through Jedediah Smith State Park.  After the park, pass the town of Hiouchi and look for South Fork Rd.  Turn Right and cross Slant Bridge.  Turn Right at the parking lot (easy to miss) and go all the way down to the river for an easy put in at the river bar.

Directions to Take Out:  Follow above directions to 199-E, but before Hiouchi take a left on North Bank Road (197).  Then follow that past the golf course and look for a “winding road” sign, turn L at the sign on to Charlie Rd.  Follow dirt road to the river.  You need to drive over river rock.  My Mazda protege5 could do it.