Smith River (California)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the community, see Smith River, California.
Not to be confused with Smith River (Umpqua River).
Smith River
The mouth of the Smith River as it enters the Pacific Ocean
Country United States
State California
 - left Middle Fork Smith River, South Fork Smith River
 - right North Fork Smith River
Source Confluence of North and Middle Forks
 - location Gasquet, Six Rivers National Forest
 - elevation 315 ft (96 m)
 - coordinates 41°50′52″N 123°58′08″W / 41.84778°N 123.96889°W / 41.84778; -123.96889 [1]
Mouth Pacific Ocean
 - location near Smith River, Del Norte County
 - elevation 0 ft (0 m)
 - coordinates 41°56′10″N 124°12′12″W / 41.93611°N 124.20333°W / 41.93611; -124.20333Coordinates: 41°56′10″N 124°12′12″W / 41.93611°N 124.20333°W / 41.93611; -124.20333 [1]
Length 25.1 mi (40 km) [2]
Basin 719 sq mi (1,862 km2)
Discharge for about 7 mi (11 km) east of Crescent City
 - average 3,748 cu ft/s (106 m3/s) [3]
 - max 228,000 cu ft/s (6,456 m3/s)
 - min 160 cu ft/s (5 m3/s)
Wpdms shdrlfi020l smith river california.jpg

The Smith River (Tolowa: xaa-wvn’-taa-ghii~-li~’, nii~-li~’[4]) is a river on the Pacific coast of extreme northwestern California, in the United States.[2] It is about 25.1 miles (40.4 km) long, all in Del Norte County, and it flows through the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Six Rivers National Forest, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.


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,[2] 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,[2] rises in Oregon on the northeast slope of Chetco Peak.[5] The South Fork Smith River enters the Smith River near the community of Hiouchi. The 43.3-mile-long (69.7 km)[2] 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.[6]


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.

By average discharge, the Smith is the largest river system in California that flows freely along its entire course.[7] The highly variable annual flow is approximately 3,746 cu ft/s (106.1 m3/s), with an average monthly high of 8,432 cu ft/s (238.8 m3/s) in January, and an average low of 336 cu ft/s (9.5 m3/s) in September. The all-time highest flow was 228,000 cubic feet per second (6,500 m3/s) on December 22, 1964 during the Christmas flood of 1964.[3]

The river was named for the explorer Jedediah Smith.[8]


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.[9]


  1. ^ a b "Smith River". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 1981-01-19. Retrieved 2014-04-22. 
  2. ^ a b c d e U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed March 9, 2011
  3. ^ a b "USGS Gage #11532500 on the Smith River near Crescent City, CA" (PDF). National Water Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. 1932–2013. Retrieved 2014-04-22. 
  4. ^ "Siletz Talking Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  5. ^ "North Fork Smith River". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 
  6. ^ State Water Resources Control Board Water Quality Control Policy for the Enclosed Bays and Estuaries of California (1974) State of California
  7. ^ "Smith River Scenic Byway Overview". National Scenic Byways Program. 
  8. ^ Gudde, Erwin G. (1949). California Place Names. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. p. 335. 
  9. ^ "Smith River, California". National Wild and Scenic Rivers. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 

External links[edit]