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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

California's Smith River National Recreation Area

You're as likely to bump into Sasquatch as another human.

by: Howard Davidson

PAGE 1 2

^Contact Information:^

U.S. Forest Service Gasquet Ranger Station Box 228 Gasquet, CA 95543 (707) 457-3131

^Location:^ The Smith River is in northwestern California just below the Oregon border. Crescent City is just 18 miles from Gasquet and offers restaurants and lodging. For more information on Del Norte County, call (707) 464-3174.

^Getting There:^ From San Francisco take US 101 north. Driving time is roughly 7 hours.

^Seasonal Information:^ In summer, temperatures range from 60? to 90? F. In winter, temperatures range from 30? to 50? F. Temperatures below 20? are very rare. Snow is generally not a concern, but rain can total 112 inches per year, with most falling between November and May. Winter, when there is high whitewater, is a good time for kayaking. If you're looking for an interesting time to visit, try the annual "Big Foot Day" held on Labor Day weekend.

^Wildlife: ^ Black bears, black-tailed deer, bobcats, porcupines, skunks, and raccoons call the area home. And listen for the bird-like whistle of mountain lions. You can fish for mighty salmon, the fighting steelhead, and plentiful rainbow trout. ^Insects:^ Contact park office for information. ^Plant Life:^ Patches of ferns grow in small clearings, flashing brilliant, almost incandescent green. Just behind them loom huge, furrowed masses of trees that have withstood 1,000 winters. These millennial redwoods climb as tall as skyscrapers. The Siskiyou Mountains, where the river originates, are noted for a diverse plant community, including one of the world's largest concentrations of lily species, as well as many species of conifers such as the rare brewers spruce, Alaskan yellow cedar, and Port Orford cedar. Summer wildflowers include Washington and tiger lilies, the rare bolanders lily, and the pitcher plant found near water.

^Facilities:^ Primitive campgrounds operate on a first come, first served basis with a maximum 14-day stay. Sanitary facilities are generally available. Some sites also have water pumps.

^Parking:^ Contact park office for information. ^Permits:^ You'll need a state license to fish. For overnight trips, get a free campfire permit from the Forest Service. Most campsites are free. Those with fees cost from $4 to $8.

^Policies:^ Contact park office for information. ^Hazards:^ Watch out for poison oak.

^Leave No Trace:^ Use established campfire rings. All LNT guidelines apply. ^Maps: ^ A USGS 7.5-minute forest ranger map of the Six Rivers National Forest includes the Smith River area, showing campgrounds and other pertinent information. ^Other Trip Options: ^

  • Explore the Siskiyou Wilderness or the many lakes of the Marble Mountain Wilderness.
  • Journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the best known trails in California, connecting Canada and Mexico.

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