17660 Pleasant Valley Road
Penn Valley, CA 95946
Download the Park Brochure
Daily Park Hours & Fees
Sunrise to Sunset everyday.
The Visitor Center is open Thursday-Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, 11am-4pm. The Rest of the year, Thursday – Sunday, 11am-3pm.
$10/Per Vehicle during peak season (Memorial Day to Labor Day) at the South Yuba River State Park Bridgeport river crossing and Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park. $5/Per Vehicle in the off season.
The fee applies to the main and north parking lots. Parking along Pleasant Valley Road is not permitted. A self-service depository is located in the northeast corner of the main lot. During high-use hours in the summer, a kiosk is staffed with park personnel, and a depository is available for other hours.
Art, Biking, Day Use, Fishing, Gold Panning, Hiking, Nature Study, Picnicking, Swimming
South Yuba River State Park has a little something for everybody. The river´s beauty and solitude has long inspired the dedication and stewardship of those who know it best.
The patchwork park boundaries form a “string of pearls” for 20 miles along the river, from Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park to Bridgeport and includes four historic bridges, miles of hiking trails, and the nation´s only wheelchair-accessible wilderness trail, the Independence Trail.
State Park headquarters at Bridgeport includes the Ranger Station, Visitor Center, beaches, trails, and the historic covered bridge, barn, wagons, and family cemetery.
The State Park is comprised of several separate pieces of land, located mainly at and around the bridge crossings of the South Yuba River. These include Bridgeport, Jones Bar, Highway 49 Crossing, Purdon Crossing, and Edwards Crossing.
The area now bounded by South Yuba River State Park was an important gold-bearing locality during the California Gold Rush in the 1850´s and again in the 1930´s during the Great Depression. The ore deposits are much younger than the Smartville Complex. They formed during the Cretaceous Period (120 to 100 million years ago) at the margins of granitic plutons during the emplacement of the Sierra Nevada Batholith, when gold bearing fluids filled rock fractures and cooled to form gold-rich veins. Weathering freed gold from the veins, and erosion then transported the gold eventually to creeks, streams and the Yuba River.
In the South Yuba River State Park area, the river emerged from the steep gorge upstream, and, as it slowed, it dropped much of its suspended load (including relatively heavy gold particles), forming so-called auriferous gravels.
Starting from the parking lot just north of the South Fork bridge and hiking East along the Buttermilk Bend trail, rocks belonging to the Smartville Complex can be examined.
All of the bedrock at South Yuba River State Park is considered by geologists to belong to the Smartville Complex, an assemblage of genetically related rocks formed late in the Jurassic period, about 160 million years ago (Day and Bickford, 2004). The oldest rocks of the Smartville Complex are volcanic, although remnants of actual volcanoes are not preserved. The Smartville Complex is part of a group of complexes that are now located west of what was the western North American continental margin during the Jurassic period.
South Yuba River State Park supports an intricate web of plant and animal life, from the plants that line the shore, to the wildflowers that cover the hillsides, to the insects, fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals that call this place their home. Designated as “Wild and Scenic”, the South Yuba River has been saved from several proposed dams, preserving both the riparian ecosystem and its scenic beauty.
Legend has it that gray pines would sway and dance at night, but then freeze in position when the sun came up, resulting in their bent and wavy silhouettes. Other trees and shrubs in the river canyon include several varieties of oak trees, buckeye, ceanothus, redbud, spicebush, manzanita, and madrone. The California Department of Parks and Recreation takes an active role in protecting native plants from invasive species.
When spring arrives in the Nevada County foothills, there is no better way to welcome its arrival than with a walk among the lovely wildflowers at South Yuba River State Park. The canyon walls erupt in a colorful display of wildflowers. The Buttermilk Bend Trail is famous for the many species that bloom on its hills and slopes. On spring weekends docents lead wildflower walks each Saturday at 10:00 AM and Sunday at 11:00 AM starting at the North Parking Lot.
A wide variety of insects emerge throughout the seasons on the South Yuba River, from the native bees and butterflies in spring to the rain beetles in winter. Each insect plays a vital role in the food web as a plant pollinator or an important source of food for fish, reptiles, amphibians, or birds. Take time to discover the shapes, colors, and sounds of these fascinating little creatures.
The South Yuba River historically hosted one of the greatest and most fantastic fisheries in the world. It included 12-foot sturgeon, lamprey eels, steelhead trout, and giant salmon so dense one could almost walk on their backs from bank to bank. Today, there are many species of fish in the park. Some, such as bullhead, bass, carp and sunfish are introduced from distant locales, but a few native species remain.
The South Yuba River canyon provides excellent wildlife viewing for those who are patient. Commonly seen mammals include Ground and Western Grey Squirrels, Mule Deer, Raccoons, Skunks, and perhaps, for a lucky visitor, an elusive sighting of a Bobcat, Grey Fox, or even a Mountain Lion.
The South Yuba River is home to a large number of bird species and is also a stopover point for many more migrating birds. As you walk through the park, stop, look, and listen. You may be treated to the sights and sounds of some of the park´s most elusive residents–birds. Stand quietly along the riverbank and you may hear the clattering call of a Song Sparrow. Pause as you walk along the rock wall and a Hermit Thrush may pop out from its hiding place. Look up! On most days you will see Turkey Vultures circling high overhead or possibly a Red-tailed Hawk soaring above the treetops. Binoculars and a field guide will help you identify Bridgeport´s birds, but keep in mind that you do not need to name the birds to enjoy their beauty.
Reptiles & Amphibians
In the winter, the Sierra Newt can often be found swimming in the shallow side waters of the river while looking for a prospective mate. In early spring, the Pacific Tree Frog can be heard in repeated, noisy choruses of “wreck-eck”. Reptiles are amply represented in and around Bridgeport. The friendly Sierra Fence Lizard can be spotted along the top of the rock walls performing push ups while displaying his distinctive blue belly. And, with a bit of effort, it is always possible to spot a Mountain Garter snake or even a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake quietly sunning itself on top of a rock.