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South Yuba River State Park

The land today known as the South Yuba River Canyon is now the center piece of a new State Park called the South Yuba River State Park. The South Yuba River State Park is unique in the California State Park System: along the South Yuba River canyon from Englebright Reservoir below Bridgeport into the Tahoe National Forest, it is a 20 mile patchwork of lands under several jurisdictions.

Historically, this area is a treasure trove. Trails, scenic vistas of fast water boiling over massive granite ledges, historic toll crossings and bridges all tell a story of day-to-day life during the Gold Rush era. California State Parks own some 2000 acres along the South Yuba River, and approximately 9000 acres are under federal jurisdiction. Much of the remaining land along this part of the river is under private ownership. It is important to respect the rights of these property owners. (Photo by

The park has become a mecca for thousands of visitors each year, including summer swimmers that flock to such places as the Bridgeport Covered Bridge, the main swim hole, cemetery beach, Jones Bar, 49 Bridge, Hoyt's Crossing, Purdon Crossing or the Independence Trail all to enjoy the sun, the fun and the great outdoors (an estimated 650,000 visitors a year in fact). Along this 20-mile portion of the south fork of the Yuba River, visitors may pan for gold, or explore the trails leading to such historic mining sites as the Miner's Tunnel or Jones Bar. Hikers have a choice ranging in difficulty from the South Yuba Independence Trail--the first identified wheelchair-accessible wilderness trail in the country - to other more strenuous trails. 

In the rough-and-tumble days of the Gold Rush period, a miner might put his life in jeopardy by stepping over the line between his claim and the next one. Today, though, we are free to explore, fish, swim and peacefully enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings. Access to some features of the South Yuba River Project may be limited.

With the aid of dedicated park professionals, docents and volunteers (many of which come great distances) acting as park interpreters giving wildflower walks, trail volunteers greeting the public, staffing the park visitor center, gold panning docents giving demonstrations or covered bridge talks, doing historical research, or by participating in living history programs such as "The Ghosts of Bridgeport," The full story of the exciting history past and present can now be told. come and learn the importance of the South Yuba river basin and its significance to western development cultural and natural history. (Photo by


Please all ahead or check website to find out park hours. The Visitor Center is located at 17660 Pleasant Valley Rd., Penn Valley; (530) 432-2546.


Bridgeport Covered Bridge


Photo: Andrew Wright

(Photo by Andrew Wright)

Longest Single Span Wood Arch Bridge, Built in 1862 Bridgeport is one of only 10 covered bridges remaining in California. The bridge is in very good condition considering its age. Built in 1862, at 251 feet, it is the longest single span covered bridge in the United States. The type of construction is unique, a Howe truss with an auxiliary Burr arch. The arch is visible from the outside as well as the inside, consisting of two five by fourteen inch timbers bolted together, squeezing between them the members of the truss. This combination, made from local Douglas Fir, and resting on massive granite blocks, endured the weight of a 13 ton tractor without excessive strain. Today the bridge is rated at 3 tons because of the age of the timber. The unique design seems to have been taken from a plan or design prepared by Theodore Burr for a bridge constructed in 1804, across the Hudson River and patented in 1817. The Sugar Pine shake roofing and sides not only protect the timber from the weather, but contribute an air of historic antiquity which attracts many visitors to see and photograph it. 

In 1853, the California Legislature authorized the formation of "Turnpike Companies" that would build roads and bridges and maintain and operate them as business ventures. County governments were newly formed and generally without funds to build or maintain the many roads and bridges, thus creating the need for the "Turnpike Companies". Tolls were approved by the local county Boards of Supervisors. The Virginia Turnpike Company, organized in 1856, by David I. Wood, arranged for construction of the toll road from a point near the Anthony House (under present day Lake Wildwood), to French Corral, a distance of 10 miles. This later became a portion of the heavily traveled route between Marysville and Virginia City. The bridge was built under the direction of Mr. Wood. The lumber was produced by his sawmill in Forest City. The bridge was taken over by Nevada County from the Virginia Turnpike Company in 1901. From that date no further tolls were charged. The Bridgeport Covered Bridge was acquired by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in 1986, and is now the centerpiece of the South Yuba River State Park. The bridge is both a State and National Historic Landmark. It is truly a living memorial to the high degree of individual initiative and private enterprise which was such a driving force in 19th century California.


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