West’s most famous trailblazer, led first and second overland expeditions into California – 2006
Rivers, lakes, schools and men are named after Smith (1799-1831). Smith led the first and second overland expeditions into California, twice crossing the Mojave Desert. He also made the first trans-Sierra crossing, west to east over what is now Ebbetts Pass. His journeys in California spanned from the Colorado River on northward to the Smith River. In the process, his stories of salmon runs on the Klamath River (“you could walk across the river on their backs”) and elsewhere are still told, and the crown jewel of the nation’s rivers, the Smith River in Del Norte County, honors him. He accomplished this despite experiencing danger from Indian tribes and sustained deprivation of water and food when crossing the Mojave, both so severe that 26 of the 33 men who joined his expeditions were killed or died.