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Trip Report: Whitewater Kayaking the South Fork of the Smith River, CA
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Trip Report: Whitewater Kayaking the South Fork of the Smith River, CA

Trip Report: Whitewater Kayaking the South Fork of the Smith River, CA

When: 03/24/2019
Location: South Fork of the Smith River, CA
Conditions: Perfect flows with a mix of rain and sunshine
Duration: 2-4 hours
Difficulty: Most of the run is class 3 with the last 2 miles (called the gorge section) being class 4.
Kid Friendly: No
Pet Friendly: No
Usefull links: americanwhitewater.org | nwrafting.com

South Fork of the Smith River

The Full Report:
Driving down to northern California to run the Smith River can easily be done in a weekend. It is well worth your time and the river is absolutely beautiful. The South Fork of the Smith River is characterized by its deep blue water and white smooth rocks that line the banks. To sweeten the deal, there are great access points all along Smith. You can drive up and put on for a 20-mile paddle or a 2-mile paddle. I’ll talk about 2 sections here, but just know there is plenty more to explore. If you are just looking for some fun class 3 try putting on at "Sand Camp" day use area or drive up a bit farther to Stevens bridge. Either way you will encounter fun pool drop rapids that are low in consequence because of the flat water after each rapid. I enjoyed how many different lines there were to take in the class 3 section. You will surely get caught up in the epic geology lining the banks after each rapid.

South Fork of the Smith River

If you are not looking for the class 4 (maybe 5 at high water) experience in the south fork gorge, you should take out at Craig's Beach. It’s a large beach on river left that leads up to the parking lot. For those excited for the experience, keep that skirt on and paddle down river. In the South Fork Gorge you will experience bigger drops with clean lines available if you can read whitewater. My suggestion is to eddy hop down on river right. You can boat scout or get out and climb the rocks for a better look. The scenery is absolutely mesmerizing as the gorge tightens up around you. (See pics). Everything is pretty straight forwards beside this one big hole at the end. Looking at it you think you've just gotta pucker up and punch it, but there is a nice line on river left close to the left wall. This avoids the hole and keeps you dry as possible.

South Fork of the Smith River

All in all, this is an epic stretch of whitewater that is roadside. There are endless camping options in the area, and if you go in the spring you should be lucky enough to have good flows.

South Fork of the Smith River

South Fork of the Smith River

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