Ranger-led Kayak Tours

For PERMIT questions, please contact Redwood National and State Parks:

Email Redw_Permits@nps.gov or call the general park information line at (707) 464-6101*

*please be advised that this phone number is not always staffed and your best place for information regarding your permit will be either the email confirmation or website.

A Wild and Scenic Opportunity along the Smith River

For a limited time in summer, Redwood National and State Parks presents ranger-led kayak tours of the Smith River—a crown jewel of the National Wild & Scenic River System and the largest free-flowing river system in California. Led by experienced park rangers, visitors will explore a variety of topics, including the unique geology of the Smith River watershed and how it contributes to the growth of the world’s largest trees, all while paddling pristine waters and enjoying unparalleled scenery.

Smith River Kayak programs will be run as staffing and river conditions allow. Tours will begin at 12 pm at the Jedediah Smith Campground Day Use area in Redwood National and State Parks. Staff will provide a brief orientation, including safety information and essential paddling skills, you must be present for the entire safety presentation to paddle. After being fitted for life jackets and helmets, participants then shuttle to the Forks put-in and boat launch in the Smith River National Recreation Area.

Based on age, weight, and experience, participants will be paired in tandem inflatable kayaks and paddle approximately 3 miles through Class I-II whitewater that includes moving flatwater, riffles, and small rapids. Along the way, rangers will give basic paddling instructions and interpret the ancient coast redwood forest from an incredible vantage point—the surface of the Smith River. A break for lunch (not included—please bring your own lunch or snacks) will also be provided as conditions allow.

Tours typically last about ~3 hours and take out at the Jedediah Smith Day Use Area. From there participants will assist in carrying the boats and gear back up to the boat trailer and fill out a program evaluation.

Requirements for Participation

To ensure diverse participation, groups larger than four individuals cannot be accommodated. Participants must be at least 10 years old and able to swim in moving water. Participants between ages 10-17 must be accompanied by an adult parent/guardian each and can only occupy a kayak in tandem with an adult 18 years old or older. Participants must weigh no less than 50 lbs (23 kg) and no more than 220 lbs (100 kg).

Life jackets and helmets will be provided and must be worn at all times. Personally owned paddling gear will not be allowed.

Each participant (or parent/guardian) must read and sign a Visitor’s acknowledgment of Risk.

Attendance at the presentation of basic safety information and essential paddling skills at the start of each tour is also required for continued participation. Don’t be late!

How To Sign-Up & Logistics

Summer 2023: Kayak program will be offered weekly starting July 1 as conditions allow.

UPDATE 7/17/23: Programs are suspended for the summer due to low water levels.

To sign up for the program, please select a time below.

* Reservations will become available 10 days before each program.

** This reservation link is provided by the park’s non-profit partner, Redwood Parks Conservancy.

The registration fee is $15/participant. Lunch and Snacks: As conditions allow, kayak guides will make a stop for lunch during the tour. Participants wishing to bring snacks or lunch should pack their own food—it will not be provided. A group dry sack will be available to transport food items.

Programs are subject to cancelation at any time if the program cannot be run safely due to staffing, river, or weather conditions.

What To Expect

Expect to have fun, of course! But also expect to get wet! Summer conditions on the Smith River may change quickly and vary from very warm to quite chilly. Please dress accordingly. We recommend clothing that insulates when wet and dries quickly, regardless of conditions. Proper footwear should be close-toed and secure on your feet.

You may fall in the river and lose cameras, cell phones, jewelry, etc. We recommend you not bring these items or protect them in waterproof containers. Consider securing glasses with a retaining strap or string.

Make a Reservation