The Smith River was added to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 1981 with an additional portion added in 1990. More than 300 miles of the Smith River drainage are designated wild and scenic, making it one of the most complete river systems in the National System. The emerald-green Smith River flows freely and naturally, without a single dam for its entire length. It is the only major system in California to do so.
The Smith River National Recreation Area (NRA) is located in the northwest corner of California and is managed by the Six Rivers National Forest. The Forest Service has been designated as the steward of the NRA to provide recreational opportunities and to manage this diverse area for all of its valuable resources. Below the National Forest, the Smith River and designated tributaries flow through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and Redwoods National Park and on to the Pacific Ocean.
The NRA encompasses more than 450-square-miles of densely forested mountains, pristine botanical areas, remote wilderness landscapes, high-mountain lakes, and steep, rocky canyons. The river is an important stream for fish, with towering trees along its banks providing the shaded conditions necessary for cold-water species.