530-365-7500 or Toll Free: 1-800-474-2782
Hwy 199 Gasquet, CA 95543
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This scenic byway follows the Smith River, which is considered one of the crown jewels of the National Wild & Scenic River System. As the byway climbs away from the coast, it enters the Smith River Canyon. In a surprisingly small space, the National Recreation Area has seven distinctive plant communities. You’ll pass from a coastal redwood forest to old growth stands of Douglas fir to dense chaparral. The river has more than 175 miles of navigatable waterway ranging from Class 1 to Class 5. 

Smith River was named for fur trapper Jedediah Smith, one of the west’s most famous explorers. With his visit to the area in June of 1828, he was probably the first white man to have entered the Smith River Basin. Although the area is rich in Native American history, the Tolowa people were scattered by the gold fever which brought hundreds of miners to the canyon in the 1850’s. Along with this intense migration, came all the other business people needed to sustain this exploration such as shopkeepers, farmers and ranchers. The history of the area is interpreted at the Smith River NRA Visitor Center in Gasquet. The river provides some of the best recreational opportunities in Northern California. There are four campgrounds along the route with Panther Creek having a construction history going back to the early California Conservation Corp projects from the 1930’s. The Smith River’s natural fishery may be one of its greatest assets. The river has exceptional runs of both salmon and steelhead. Salmon appear in late October and continue through December, with steelhead starting to arrive in mid December and remaining into May. The eleven river access points allow for easy access of rafts or kayaks. 

Off the byway, numerous roads lead to other recreational sites in the area and follow the various tributaries of the Smith River. One of these, Jawbone Road leads to the top of Bear Basin Butte (elevation 5,292 ft.). This mountain top has a historic 1930’s fire lookout, which may be rented between June 15th and September 30th. Information is available at the NRA Visitor Center. 

The byway is truly a year-round opportunity which should not be missed. Winter provides great fishing and whitewater rafting, while spring offers blossoming Pacific dogwoods, wild azaleas and rhododendrons. Summer of course provides for swimming in deep natural pools of clear emerald water, tubing and rafting, and hiking the backcountry wilderness trails. Autumn may provide some of the best weather as well as an opportunity to be in awe of beautiful colors, experience berry picking or just find a spot along the river to kick back and relax. This scenic drive with its spectacular views of rugged canyons, turbulent rapids and picturesque recreation sites should be an automatic addition to any north coast vacation. 

Drive Tips 
Distance: 33 miles 
Minimum Driving Time: 1 hour 
Best Time to go: Year-round 

Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association
1699 HWY 273, Anderson, CA 96007 | (P) 530-365-7500
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