Gardiner is a community near the confluence of the Smith River and the Umpqua River, about 6.5 miles (10.5 km) northeast of the mouth of the Umpqua River and 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Reedsport, Oregon. Gardiner is named for a merchant whose ship, the Bostonian, wrecked at the mouth of the Umpqua on October 1, 1850. Gardiner was seeking to trade along the river, and most of his goods were saved from the ship and moved to the location that came to be the townsite.
The Smith River is a tributary of the Umpqua River, about 90 miles (140 km) long, that drains 352 square miles (91,168 ha) of the Central Oregon Coast Range between the watershed of the Umpqua to the south and the Siuslaw River to the north. The river flows generally west in a winding course through the Siuslaw National Forest for about 10 miles (16 km) in its lower course. It joins the Umpqua from the north across from Reedsport, about 6 miles (10 km) from the mouth of the Umpqua on the Pacific Ocean. The river is named for Jedediah Smith, a frontiersman and explorer of the Rocky Mountains and the American West during the early 19th century.
Jedediah Smith led a party of explorers in 1828 on an expedition to find new fur trading opportunities. Smith’s party left Mexican Alta California and entered the Oregon Country in the summer. The party, then numbering 19 and over 250 horses, came into contact with the Umpqua people. One of them stole an ax, and Smith’s party treated the Umpqua very harshly in order to force the thief to return it. On July 14, 1828, while Smith and two others were scouting a trail north, the main group was attacked at their encampment on the Umpqua River. Smith, having been alerted to the attack climbed a hill and witnessed the ensuing massacre. He ultimately confirmed that all 15 of the men had died. The exact location of the massacre was recently determined to be on the banks of the Umpqua River near Reedsport. Read more about the Umpqua River here and Jedehiah Smith here. Explore more of the Umpqua River here: