When Meg and I moved to Crescent City it was Meg who was adamant about living on the river — not near the river, not close by, but on it. That absolute requirement prompted us to rent a house in Gasquet on the banks of the fast-moving and noisy north fork of the Smith.
Our new home was a badly insulated, ranch-style house with a grassy back yard that sloped toward a bluff which dropped suddenly to the water. The place literally tumbled toward the river.
Living so close to a wild river provided unending entertainment — for the eyes and ears. I’m convinced something happens to the brain when it hears the sound of rushing water, a falls, water cascading over boulders or waves that crash on to the shore.
Maybe you are here because you’re looking for that same energy or similar high?
Here’s a suggestion on interpreting the rivers that are nearest to the bnb. Think of them as individuals with their own unique personalities. Think of them having similarities but with nuanced differences. All with eyes and ears, hands and feet, but different shapes, sizes, and color. The nearby rivers and creeks you will encounter are like different members of the same family.
So. I will tell you what I know of the rivers and creeks — the Smith because it is literally in our back yard and because it is so grand; the Klamath to the south because it is the biggest; Mill Creek because its ecology is so intrinsically entwined with that of the Smith; and the Chetco because it is both large and near to us in Hiouchi and you will cross over it when you head north to Brookings.
Named for the 19th century explorer and trapper Jedidiah Smith, the river that bears his name is a spectacularly grand and unique stretch of water. In the local area, between Crescent City and Hiouchi, and along various hikes in Redwood National Park, you will be exposed to the final 20 or so miles of this 380-mile long river.
The Smith was added to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 1981. Now, more than 300 miles of the Smith River System are designated wild and scenic. It is one of longest rivers in the federal program that manages these especially unique rivers. The emerald-green Smith River flows freely and naturally without a single dam for its entire length. This is the only major river system in California to do so.
So many factors distinguish the Smith and make it a unique river system. To start, the river can be unbelievably clear. Even when heavy rains kick up the limited amount of particulates, the Smith is one of the fastest clearing rivers around. Contributing to the river’s clarity is the fact that most of the nearby banks of the river have very little top soil. Add to that the difficulty of logging on the steep banks and you have a jumble of factors that result in limited erosion and very little release of top soil when it rains.
And as far as the green-hued waters of the Smith? That’s the result of a high amount of serpentine in the river rock and boulders. The river water itself isn’t green though it sure looks that way.
Facts aside, the Smith is plainly a beauty and beast of a river. You will feel this as soon as you stand on its banks. But it’s not the only elegant and pristine (or near-pristine) waterway in the area. Flowing into the Smith is Mill Creek, spawning grounds of the coho salmon. To the north is the Chetco and to the south, the Klamath.