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The Smith River is the last large natural free flowing river in California. This means there are no dams along the length of the river. It is cold, clear, and rocky, perfect for salmon spawning. The large growing redwoods and other trees keep the river shaded and cool year round, perfect temperatures for salmon. As the Save the Redwoods League says, with “thick redwood forests, banana slugs, a beautiful river, and pollywogs, what more could you ask for?”
Unlike many other rivers, the Smith River is not fed by snow melt. Instead, areas of the river receive around 100 inches of rain per year. This rain collects into small rivers and streams that then flow into the Smith River. The junction where Mill Creek flows into the Smith River in Jedediah Smith State Park is a prime spawning ground for coho salmon. In the fall and winter, the water rises, covering the rocky shore line and making it a perfect place for the salmon to lay their eggs.