U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Six Rivers National Forest


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Forest Information

The Six Rivers National Forest is located in the northwest corner of California. It is comprised of 989,951 acres. There are 27 developed campgrounds of which 12 meet the selection criteria. In addition, three campgrounds in the Klamath National Forest are administered by Six Rivers National Forest.

In 1947, portions of the Siskiyou, Klamath and Trinity National Forests were used to establish a new inland national forest. This new forest, named Six Rivers National Forest, not far from the Pacific Ocean, had rugged mountains covered with extensive stands of conifers, outstanding anadromous fishing, and a potential for many recreational opportunities and camping locations. Its centerpiece, and the reason for its name, was the six major waterways that drain or pass through the Forest. The Smith, Klamath, Trinity, Mad, Van Duzen and Eel rivers have shaped the Six Rivers National Forest and continue to be the primary reason for recreation on the forest.

With some 1500 miles of clear, healthy waterways (rivers, streams, and creeks) in the Six Rivers National Forest it isn't hard to see why fishing is so popular. While trout and bass are the objectives for most during the summer, the real fishing spectacular is the seasonal runs of the Steelhead trout and Chinook salmon. These anadromous species return to their birthplace, fighting their way back to reproduce and insure a next generation. It is an amazing sight to see and experience. (Be sure to check with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for specific information about fishing for these species.)

The same waterways that provide ideal habitat for fishing also offer some of the most outstanding whitewater challenges in Northern California. From a leisurely lazy day of floating to several days challenging one of the Forest rivers, professional outfitters are ready to help visitors to the Forest. Contact the Six Rivers National Forest for more information.

Although well-known for its rivers, Six Rivers has some lakes that must be considered by anyone looking for a beautiful and peaceful spot to camp, relax. and, maybe, do a little fishing. Ruth Reservoir, on the Mad River, is one such location. With 13,800 surface acres, Ruth Reservoir offers a nice variety of waterplay while Bailey Canyon campground, located on the Reservoir's banks, is nestled in a stand of massive Douglas firs and can be a good base camp for sampling waterplay. Some of Bailey Canyon's trees are estimated to be 200 years old. If a more secluded campsite with the sounds of rushing water is wanted, try the nearby Mad River campground where some sites are hidden by patches of River Willow. Another popular Six Rivers National Forest lake is Fish Lake. No power-boats are allowed on this lake and it is surrounded by stately cedar trees. These two features give Fish Lake a very calm, tranquil feel which carries over into it adjacent campground. It is a bit of a drive to Fish Lake and miles from the stresses of modern life.

Although Six Rivers National Forest has much to offer, many people seem interested in just passing through. That's okay because the Forest has several nice developed campgrounds for these folks to stop at for an overnight stay. Campgrounds like Pearch Creek and E-Ne-Nuck, off State Route 96, and Boise Creek campgrounds, near Willow Creek and next to State Route 299, offers easy in-and-out access for car and tent campers as well as recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhome camping enthusiasts and lots of character. From their moss covered Klamath ovens to the shady canopy of tall trees, each of these campgrounds welcomes campers for an overnight. But be warned - one night could turn into a two, three or more day stay.
Perhaps the best known of Six Rivers National Forest's rivers is the Smith River. To help preserve this river's beauty and uniqueness, the Smith River National Recreation Area (NRA) was established in 1990. Covering some 450 acres of Northern California woodland, the NRA features some 315 miles of designated wild and scenic waterways. Designated "Wild and Scenic," the free-flowing North, Middle, and South Forks of the Smith River are all within the boundaries of the Smith River NRA. United States Highway 199 runs beside the Middle Fork of Smith River, making it the portion of the Smith River most accessible to visitors. There are also three nice campgrounds (Patrick Creek, Grassy Flat, and Panther Flat) along this route that can be used as a base camp for exploring the Smith River NRA's wonders and special features. The Smith River NRA has special man-made features all visitors should take a moment to observe. These are the contributions of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). Two of the more easily seen examples of the CCC enrollee's handiwork are the stonework found at Patrick Creek campground and the workmanship in the construction of the NRA's District Office. (Take special note of the lanterns, handcrafted by those young men in the mid-1930s.)

While North and South Forks of Smith River are not as accessible as the Middle Fork, the former are popular with backpackers and whitewater enthusiasts. Anyone interested in exploring the North and South Forks should check with the Smith River NRA for current information and conditions.

The Six Rivers National Forest is all about water. The rivers, streams, creeks, and lakes are what give this Forest its character and personality and make it an outstanding choice for a family camping vacation. They are also what brings people to the Forest time after time. Whether it is for the excitement of challenging whitewater, the tranquil calm of a mountain lake, or the excitement of catching a determined trout, recreational opportunities in the Six Rivers National Forest are as varied as can be. Come and discover all the Six Rivers National Forest has to offer.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 1330 Bayshore Way Eureka, California 95501 707-442-1721 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Lower Trinity Hwy. 96, P.O.B. 68 Willow Creek, California 95573 530-629-2118 Mad River 741 State Hwy 36 Bridgeville, California 95526 707-574-6233 Orleans-Ukonom Hwy. 96, POB 410 Orleans, California 95556 530-627-3291 Smith River National Recreation Area 10600 Hwy 199 P.O.B. 228 Gasquet, California 95543 707-457-3131

Fred and Suzi Dow