Come for the Redwoods, Stay for the River

In honor of the 2018 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the National Park Foundation funded new gear for Redwood National and State Parks’ free ranger-led kayak program on the Smith Wild and Scenic River.

Two people kayaking in a bright blue boat on a calm green river.
Visitors on the free ranger-led kayak tours admire the unique geology and emerald green waters of the Smith Wild and Scenic River.


A hidden gem of the northwest corner of California, Redwood National and State Parks stretch nearly 70 miles along the California coast, covering protected forests, beaches, and grasslands. This complex of national and state parks are most well known as the home of coast redwoods, the tallest trees in the world. Although most visitors come to the area to experience the grandeur of these trees, many stick around and fall in love with the Smith River--a National Wild and Scenic River--thanks to free kayak tours.

From its headwaters in the Klamath Mountains through Redwood National and State Parks to the Pacific Ocean, nearly 300 miles of the Smith River and its tributaries are designated as Wild and Scenic. This special designation protects and enhances rivers in their natural, free-flowing condition for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

From the seat of a kayak, it is easy to understand why the Smith River is considered a crown jewel of the National Wild and Scenic River System. Crystal-clear water rushes over slick serpentinite rock, providing passage to an array of anadromous fish on their journey to sea or back to the headwaters to spawn. The river runs through Redwood National and State Parks, where enormous redwoods envelop the sky and occasionally allow the bright California sun to peek through their massive, intertwining branches. This segment through the park contains some of the most charming scenes of the Smith River and some of the most picturesque places to paddle.

3 boats spread out on the river wearing yellow safety gear.
Ranger Jeff Kulp discussing the rich natural significance of the Smith Wild and Scenic River in front of towering redwood trees.


In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 2018, the National Park Foundation granted Redwood National and State Parks funds to purchase gear to expand their free interpretive kayak tours on the Smith River. With the funds, Redwood National and State Parks purchased 8 inflatable kayaks, 10 helmets, 31 lifejackets, 12 paddles, numerous pieces of safety gear, and much more; this nearly doubled the amount of gear available for visitors on these tours. With this assistance, the parks additionally purchased racks, hangers, and shelving--simple items that allow park rangers to organize gear and run the program efficiently.

“The National Park Foundation grant has immensely helped our program”, says Brad Maggetti, the Smith River Kayak Tour Leader. “Our gear was old and needed repairs or replacements. Some of our gear even failed while we were processing the grant!”

park ranger organizing life jackets in a storage room.
Ranger Maggetti checking lifejackets that were purchased through the National Park Foundation grant.

NPS Photo/ J. Gore

We give thanks to the National Park Foundation for supporting Redwood National and State Parks. With a growing number of visitors, the free kayak tour program benefits greatly from having new gear to engage and inspire visitors on the river. Read what visitors have to say about the program:

"Thank you for creating a terrific program like the kayak tour on the Smith River. While the wildlife and fauna were fantastic, Park Rangers Melissa Lockwood and Jeff Kulp were the true diamonds of the tour. Melissa did a fantastic job of making us feel welcome, preparing, and guiding us through the tour. Jeff was super helpful (even when he had to get us unstuck!). They made the trip really enjoyable and I will definitely tell others about this tour due to their warmth and professionalism."

"I've been on the kayak program several times over the years, and I have not gotten to write how much I love and appreciate this program. The tour guides have always been wonderful every time. I have enjoyed this experience every time and want to extend my personal thanks to the rangers and all the people involved in maintaining the kayak tour.”

"Kayak program on the Smith River with Park Rangers Rachel Ristine and Brad Marciniec: This was a wonderful opportunity and the Rangers were so awesome at helping to keep us safe and the experience wonderful. The views were spectacular and things you can't see from any other way."

two park rangers standing by the Redwoods National and State Parks sign with two kayaks in front.
Rangers Michael Glore (left) and Brad Maggetti (right) ready to run their free interpretive kayak trips on the Smith Wild and Scenic River, starting at Hiouchi Information Center.

NPS/J. Gore

Want to #MakeYourSplash on the Smith Wild and Scenic River? Join a free kayak tour for a limited time during summer at Redwood National and State Parks. Trips are first come-first served, with in-person reservations allowed up to 1 week before your trip at Hiouchi Information Center. Learn more on the Ranger-led Kayak Tours program page.

Last updated: November 15, 2018