Length: 11.4 miles
Flows: 800 - 6000 cfs
Gradient: 30 ft/mi
Put-in: Steven's Bridge
Take-out: Craig's Beach
Shuttle: 10.5 miles on paved road
This is probably the best introduction to whitewater in the Smith River drainage and it is the perfect warm up for the North Fork of the Smith. Your day will start by driving up the South Fork Smith Valley along the river and lowering your rafts (or carrying your kayaks) down a steep bank next to Stevens Bridge. On busy weekends this will be quite a production as well as a SUV festival.
The first few miles of the run are pretty much straightforward and the first rapid is the class II+ Rattlesnake Slide about a mile down from Stevens Bridge.
After a few more miles Boulder Creek comes on the left and soon after the class III Boulder Creek Rapid. This is the big rapid that you see as you drive up with a big rock on the river right side. The rocky river left bank is a great place to stop and watch your friends flail down and to stop for some lunch. About a mile after Boulder Creek Rapid is Sandy Camp River Access where you can take out and cut the run in half. This is just plain silly as there are great rapids and play spots below.
Soon after Sandy Camp river access you will travel under a tall bridge and immediately paddle a fun unnamed wave train. Then Coon Creek will come in on river right and as the river bends sharply to the left and you will have the opportunity to paddle the Coon Creek Rapid. The last two rapids, Broken Paddle and Surprise, are encountered in the last mile of the run.
Surprise is the last rapid of this section, probably the most challenging, and definitely the most entertaining. After Broken Paddle you will come close to the South Fork Road and once the road leaves the river Surprise will be just around the corner. You'll want to eddy out on the right to catch your breath, scout, or watch your friends flail down the rapid. My favorite memory of this run is videoing thirty or so rafts, kayaks, and duckies make their way down this fierce rapid. Most vivid is my memory of our river legend friend Noel as he tipped over in his ducky and all that we saw was his hand coming out of the water with the "sic" sign. Epic! My sister was also involved in a high water raft flip here where our friend and river legend Aaron saved her from the cold water. This is also an entertaining place since fishermen and shuttle bunnies can watch all the action from a pull out on the South Fork Road.
Take out is at Craig's Beach half a mile below Surprise. If you're not a confident class IV - V boater you should be sure to walk down during your shuttle to the take out so that you can recognize it since the South Fork Gorge is a few hundred yards downstream. The take out is a narrow trail up a hill which will annoy kayakers and test the teamwork of rafter types.