South Yuba River State Park is a favorite swimming hole located along the South Fork of the Yuba River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The park offers visitors scenic vistas and an abundance of outdoor adventures.
The park covers nearly 20-miles from Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park to the banks of the Yuba River. Visitors can enjoy swimming, hiking and exploring the trails leading to historic mining sites, panning for gold and gorgeous wildflowers in the spring.
Venturesome hikers can explore more than a dozen trails ranging from easy to strenuous, which meander their way through the deep, rugged canyons covered in black oaks, gray pine, and Douglas-fir. Including the Independence Trail – the first identified wheelchair-accessible wilderness trail in the country.
Jointly owned by the California State Parks and non-profit organization, the Sequoya Challenge, the once historic aqueduct has been modified to enable wheelchair users and hikers.
The trail is two miles through forests and over rocky outcrops to view waterfalls and fast-moving mountain streams that feed emerald swimming holes during midsummer through fall.
And while swimming is not recommended in cold, fast-moving water, a swim in the calm waters of the Family Beach Area is perfect for everyone. The beach and shore can be accessed near the historic Bridgeport Covered Bridge, off Highway 20, east of Marysville on Pleasant Valley Road.
However, for visitors that want to stay dry, watching the river’s power and serenity from the windows of the Bridgeport Covered Bridge, is a great way to spend the day. And the most impressive season to do so is in the spring when the winter snowmelt roars over massive granite boulders.
The colossal bridge dates back to the 1860s and is thought to be the longest existing single span covered bridge in the United States.
The melting snow also provides the necessary life-giving water for a magnificent display of wildflowers, which visitors can take free guided walks through, on Saturdays and Sundays from early March through mid-May.
And while humans enjoy looking at the flowers, birds such as Canyon wrens, spotted towhees, American dippers, acorn woodpeckers and ruby-crowned sparrows utilize them as a food source. So visitors will want to bring binoculars and hiking shoes for spring and fall guided bird walks.
But the park is not just an avian paradise, the occasional black bear, coyote and mountain lion often roam the park in search of deer, other small game, and fish. The same fish sought by the many anglers that flock to South Yuba River State Park year-after-year to go fishing once the spring runoff has subsided and the river level drops.
Fishing in the area requires a license and is best from Rush Creek, located about 1.1 miles west of the trailhead for the Independence Trail.
Finally, for history buffs, there are numerous historic sites scattered throughout the park, including the Bridgeport Mining Camp, which once served as a stage stop and ranch and the historic fording spot at Hoyt Crossing.
Getting to South Yuba River State Park
While remote segments of the park are only accessible from Edwards Crossing, Purdon Crossing, and Highway 49.
South Yuba River State Park headquarters is located in Bridgeport and can be accessed from Highway 20, west of Grass Valley, or from Highway 49 north of Nevada City.
The park is open for day use from sunrise to sunset. Visitors are welcome to pan for gold at the park however, only pans and hands can be used.