The Smith River, in the extreme northwest corner of California in Del Norte county, is the northernmost of California’s major rivers. The mouth is about 5 miles from the Oregon border and 10 miles north of Crescent City. The Smith River flows generally northwest, entering the Pacific Ocean near the community of Smith River.
It is the largest free-flowing river in the state, producing the largest Steelhead and Chinook Salmon. The state record Steelhead, 27 lbs. 4 oz. and the state’s second largest Chinook Salmon, 86 lb, were both pulled out of the Smith. Steelhead of 20 lbs are caught on a regular basis and the Chinook average 20-36 lbs.
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.
The Smith River flows through some of the most beautiful scenery in California. From Six Rivers National Forest through Jedediah State Park, it is hard to decide which is better, the scenery or the fishing. Be sure to visit the Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery if you pass through the town of Smith River near the mouth of the river. The hatchery offers tours daily and it’s a great opportunity to see the efforts being put into keeping our sport alive.