Six Rivers National Forest lies east of Redwood State and National Parks in northwestern California, and stretches southward from the Oregon border for about 140 miles. It encompasses 957,590 National Forest acres and 133,410 acres of other ownership. Smith River National Recreation Area and Orleans, Lower Trinity, and Mad River Ranger Districts make up the Forest. It forms a long, narrow swath of land, stretching from the Oregon border on the north to Mendocino County on the south. The Six Rivers National Forest was established by President Truman on June 3, 1947, from parts of the Siskiyou, Klamath and Trinity National Forests.

In 1990, 450 square miles of Smith River watershed land in the Six Rivers National Forest was designated as a National Recreation Area for protection of wild and scenic rivers, ecological diversity and recreation opportunities, while providing for sustained productivity of natural resources.

Smith River National Recreation Area Act (PDF)