About the Site
Redwood National Park  


Park History

Redwood Trees

LBJ Grove

Roosevelt Elk

Northern Coast

Central Coast

South Coast


Jedediah Smith SP

Prairie Cr. Redwoods SP

Cathedral Trees

Fern Canyon

Klamath River

Smith River

Redwood Creek

Redwood Creek Overlook

Lost Man Creek

Bald Hills

Crescent City



Plants & Animals


Klamath River

The park contains three major waterways--the Smith, the Klamath, and Redwood Creek. The largest river is the Klamath, which begins some 260 miles upstream in the mountains of southern Oregon. There is a large sandspit across the mouth of the river where it enters the Pacific Ocean. The sandspit, pictured below, shifts from time to time to accommodate the repositioning of the river's mouth.

The rivers of the park contain trout and salmon. Before the arrival of the white man the Yurok Indians lived along the banks of the Klamath River, subsisting on the salmon as well as acorns from the oaks in the area. Salmon were valuable to settlers as well. Just downriver from this spot, in Requa on the north side of the river, there was at one time a salmon cannery.

The Klamath River created a challenging impediment in building an uninterrupted highway from San Francisco to the Oregon border. This road, known as the Redwood Highway, was eventually opened in 1923. In fact, the Klamath River crossing was the last gap in this highway. The Klamath River Bridge, opened in 1926, closed this last gap. The opening of the bridge, known as the Douglas Memorial Bridge, was a gala event. The picture below shows the modern bridge looking north, about a mile inland from the ocean and about 260 miles downstream from the source of the river in the Oregon mountains. The gold colored bear statues on each end of the bridge are familiar landmarks in the area.

Although the river looks peaceful enough now, the Klamath River flooded seriously in 1955. This occurred on the night of December 21, and was the first flood of its magnitude since 1861-2. As such, it was regarded as a "hundred year flood."

Unfortunately, it was not a hundred years until another substantial flood occurred again. On December 22, 1964, the Klamath River flooded again, this time with the river reaching a level 18 feet above flood stage, 5 feet above the level of the 1955 flood. This flood washed away the original Douglas Memorial Bridge on what is now Highway 101. A small portion of the old bridge has been saved as a memorial and can still be seen, and is pictured below extending from the river's south bank. The bridge was famous for its 8 ton California bear statues.

This view shows the sand spit at the mouth of the Klamath from the south. This spit at the mouth of the river frustrated plans to build a sea port there. A number of ships foundered on this spit, and it is still hazardous to navigate this portion of the river.

Smith River

Another of the three major rivers in the park complex is the Smith River, which runs through the far northern section in Jedediah Smith State Park. The river features turquoise-green water, its color derived from the soils of the surrounding hills. The river bed is covered with gravel, as can be seen in the photograph below.

The Smith River is a wild and scenic river. It is, in fact, the largest undammed river system in California.

The rivers of the park provide a healthy fishery. Chinook, coho salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout are found in the major waterways of the park.

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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

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