Smith River (California)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Smith River
The mouth of the Smith River as it enters the Pacific Ocean
Wpdms shdrlfi020l smith river california.jpg
Mouth Pacific Ocean
Basin countries United States
Length 25.1 miles (40.4 km)
Avg. discharge 3,754 cu ft/s (106.3 m3/s)
Basin area 719 square miles (1,860 km2)[1]

The Smith River (Tolowa: xaa-wvn’-taa-ghii~-li~’, nii~-li~’ [2]) is a river on the Pacific coast of extreme northwestern California, in the United States.[3] The approximately 25.1 miles (40.4 km) long course is located in Del Norte County, and flows through the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Six Rivers National Forest, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.


The river's watershed catchment area is 719 square miles (1,860 km2). It drains a rugged area of the western Klamath Mountains and Northern Outer California Coast Ranges, west of the Siskiyou Mountains, just south of the Oregon border, and north of the watershed of the Klamath River.

It is the second largest river system in California that flows freely along its entire course, after the South Fork Trinity River.[4] It was named for the explorer Jedediah Smith.[5]

The Smith River is formed by the confluence of its Middle and North forks in Del Norte County, in the extreme northwest corner of California, near the community of Gasquet. The Middle Fork, 27.8 miles (44.7 km) long,[3] rises in Del Norte County, approximately 60 miles (100 km) northeast of Crescent City, and flows west. The North Fork Smith River, 28.1 miles (45.2 km) long,[3] rises in Oregon on the northeast slope of Chetco Peak.[6] The South Fork Smith River enters the Smith River near the community of Berteleda. The 43.3-mile-long (69.7 km)[3] fork rises on the eastern edge of the Smith River National Recreation Area, approximately 30 miles (48 km) east-northeast of Crescent City, flowing southwest and then northwest.

From the confluence with the South Fork, the Smith River flows generally northwest, entering the Pacific Ocean near the community of Smith River, approximately 10 miles (16 km) north of Crescent City. Smith River estuary is recognized for protection by the California Bays and Estuaries Policy.[7]


The free-flowing nature of the river—without a single dam along its entire length—makes it especially prized among conservationists and is considered one of the crown jewels of the National Wild and Scenic River program.[8]


  1. ^ "11532500 Smith River near Crescent City, CA". United States Geological Survey. 
  2. ^ "Siletz Talking Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  3. ^ a b c d U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed March 9, 2011
  4. ^ "Smith River Scenic Byway Overview". National Scenic Byways Program. 
  5. ^ Gudde, Erwin G. (1949). California Place Names. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. p. 335. 
  6. ^ "North Fork Smith River". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. 
  7. ^ State Water Resources Control Board Water Quality Control Policy for the Enclosed Bays and Estuaries of California (1974) State of California
  8. ^ "Smith River, California". National Wild and Scenic Rivers. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°56′10″N 124°12′12″W / 41.93611°N 124.20333°W / 41.93611; -124.20333