Play in the Water: Water Sports & Activities in Crescent City & Del Norte County, California
Kayak through a lush canyon. Savor your own freshly-caught salmon with fishing buddies. Spy a menagerie of ocean life. The swirling Pacific and wild Smith and Klamath rivers are the launch points for your Del Norte County adventure.
Ocean Water Adventures
Find your bliss along the California coastline searching for that perfect wave. The flat, sandy shore of South Beach, south of Crescent City, lends itself to great surfing for any level. Seasoned surfers looking for some killer scenery should check out Pebble Beach or Point St. George. If you are a novice surfer or need a refresher, get surf lessons. Surfboard rentals and gear (hood, booties and wetsuit) are available in town at Local Boys Surf & Skate Shop.
Tame the wild winds as you skim the ocean’s surface windsurfing. Start at South Beach just south of the jetty. Sail southward for more excitement and bigger waves. Or channel your inner calm (and abs) on a stand-up paddleboard.
Leave the shoreline to get up-close and personal with some protected wildlife. Launch from Whalers Island by boat or sea kayak and about a half-mile away you’ll discover Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge, a 14-acre habitat for several thousand birds as well as a rest stop for seals and sea lions. Book a guided kayak tour out to Castle Rock with Redwood Rides.
Soak up the sun and cruise the ocean in your own boat. Launch from Crescent City Harbor or Anglers’ Cove Campground at the mouth of the Klamath River. Savor your own catch of sweet Dungeness crab. Recreational crabbing is permitted late November to late summer.
River Water Adventures
The translucent Smith River can serve as your base for countless adventures. Flowing from the Klamath Mountains to the Pacific, you’ll be captivated by nature’s voodoo as the Middle and South Forks collide at “the confluence”. Smith River’s wildlife is bountiful too, from salmon and steelhead to the menagerie that bask on the mouth’s shores including crabs, seals, otters and geese.
The rugged and rich Klamath River is California’s second largest river. Unique in many ways, it flows from the high desert of Oregon south to the mountains. Snag salmon, steelhead or trout and prepare it for a picnic along its serene banks. Spy a whale from the overlook where the Klamath spills into the sea.
Tour the river at high speeds on a Klamath Jet Boat Tour and keep your eyes peeled for osprey, elk or berry-snacking bears. They are often seen along the banks. Don’t worry, your guide will stop for photographs.
If a serene river paddle is more your vibe, try a Yurok Redwood Canoe Tour led by a local Yurok guide in a hand carved Redwood canoe. Tours operate every June through mid-September on the Klamath River.
Anchor yourself in the quiet of a river bend for some great fishing. Relax, cast and wait. Good fish come to those that do. September brings trophy-worthy salmon to the Smith. Hunker down in The Sand Hole, Cattle Crossing, The Piling Hole or at the Mouth of Rowdy Creek. Chinook salmon make their way up the Klamath in May. Amble upriver from the Roy Rook boat launch to catch a King.
Spread a blanket out on a sandy shore around the Forks of the Smith River. The pristine, undammed waters will beckon you. Plan to post up for days to enjoy tubing, rafting, kayaking, swimming and paddle boarding. Unplug completely off South Fork Road a mile east of Hiouchi. There you’ll find secluded swimming holes and a 13-mile kayak through a steep canyon. Super floaters will want to mark their calendar for the Gasquet Raft Races, 2 1/2 mile river float race that happens every July. Prizes given for best raft “decor” and costumes. Redwood Rides offers guided rafting and kayak tours, plus rentals.
Top Photo by Ken Morrish