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U.S. Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Region Viewing Area


View of High Plateau, North Fork Smith Botanical Area. View of High Plateau, North Fork Smith Botanical Area. Photo by Wielding.

Spreading phlox commingling with fernleaf biscuitroot. Spreading phlox commingling with fernleaf biscuitroot (Lomatium dissectum). Photo by Sydney Carothers.

North Fork Smith Botanical Area

Forest: Six Rivers National Forest

District: Smith River National Recreation Area

Description: North Fork Smith Botanical Area encompasses a large portion of the pristine, North Fork of the Smith River watershed, a watershed underlain by serpentine soils supporting an array of unique plant communities, and rare and endemic species. The North Fork Smith Botanical Area is approximately 28,000 acres in size. Elevation ranges from 800 to 3,500 feet.

Viewing Information: The North Fork Smith Botanical Area is a mosaic of plant communities. There are Jeffrey pine woodlands on gently sloping terrain with common juniper (Juniperus communis), pinemat manzanita (Arctostaphylos nevadensis), Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis var. idahoensis) and spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa.). Open Douglas-fir stands with a dense understory of tanbark oak (Lithocarpus densiflora ssp. echinoides), California bay (Umbellularia californica), boxleaf silk tassle (Garrya buxifolia) and huckleberry oak (Quercus vaccinifolia) blanket the steeper slopes. Streamside, there is Port-Orford cedar with western azalea (Rhododendron occidentale), and Darlingtonia seeps. The distinctiveness of the area is derived from the serpentine soils, which are high in heavy metals such as chromium and copper, and low in essential nutrients. Due to the serpentine soil type, the North Fork Smith harbors many rare and endemic plant species.

Once on Six Rivers National Forest, the area is accessible by gravel roads. The area is remote. There are no designated foot trails and no visitor facilities. The North Fork Smith Botanical Area is best observed from the primary road which encircles the headwaters of the area—the Wimer Road.

Due to the unfortunate presence of Port-orford cedar root disease in various tributaries to the North Fork Smith River, winter travel in the area is discouraged. Port-orford cedar root disease is a fungus that infects the roots of the tree; the infection leads to mortality. Spores of the fungus can be transported from infected drainages to uninfected drainages in mud trapped on the undercarriage of vehicles, on tires, or on footgear. Mud entering the stream carries spores that can be exposed to the roots of Port-Orford cedar. Winter is very rainy season in the North Fork Smith watershed; where there is rain, there is mud. Muddy conditions increase the risk of picking up spores; thereby, increasing the risk of spreading the fungus to an uninfected drainage. For more information about the root disease and spread prevention measures, visit Six Rivers National Forest: Port-Orford cedar.

Safety First: The roads that lead to the area are generally gravel, one lane roads with pullouts. Segments of the gravel road are steep. Drive slowly, stay to the right side of the road at all times, and use pullouts. Above all be alert and drive defensively.

Directions: Travel east on Highway 199 from the town of Crescent City, California. There are a couple of access roads to the area. Contact the Smith River National Recreation, Six Rivers National Forest for more information.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Six Rivers National Forest, Smith River National Recreation Area.

Closest Towns: Crescent City or Hiouchi, California.