Adventures on the South Fork of the Yuba River

South Fork Yuba River, Jenna Mukuno, image

The author prepares to descend into an inviting swimming hole. | Linda Mottet

Road Journals Blog—I always feel like Huckleberry Finn when exploring the South Fork of the Yuba River near Nevada City, Calif. Unlike plopping on the beach, staking out a secluded swimming spot along this 20-mile tributary can sometimes take a bit of work.

Ask locals and you’ll find a friendly reluctance to reveal the precise location of their favorite swimming holes on the Yuba. However, there’s no need to trek far off the beaten track to enjoy the South Fork’s pleasures.

In fact, one look over the Old Highway 49 Crossing—a beautiful concrete bridge built in the 1920s—and immediately I start pinpointing the best slab of rock upon which I can unfurl my towel, or the stillest pocket of emerald water to use as my liquid sofa.

A short trail down to the river’s edge, and soon I’m swimming upstream through the crevices and archways of giant littered boulders. Underwater ledges and the force of the current produce exceptional Jacuzzis along the way.

Whether you’re here to swim or “lizard” (my term for sunbathing), make sure to bring the camera. Being an avid Instagrammer, I love how I can traverse the river with my gadgets while for the most part staying dry. The nearby Independence Trail, shaded by oaks and buckeyes, is one place I overcome sun coma.

My advice to newcomers: apply the sunscreen twice. There’s a definite chance you’ll lose track of time on this heavenly stretch of water.

Which is your favorite river to spend the day?

This blog post was first published in July 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.


I just moved up to Grass Valley, and on the top of my list is a dip in the South Yuba River! All of us who are moving into our new cohousing community here are excited about all the recreational possibilities nearby. If you are interested in cohousing, and an ecological, community oriented life-style, visit us at

I recognize those beach towels....

A BIG "thank you" to Jenna, for reminding me of one of the most wonderful little spots in California I visited many, many years ago!
Her literary excursion to South Fork brought to mind quite a few memories of that trip!

Hi Jenna! Beautiful writing--and I know that spot very well. It’s only a few miles from where my friend Steve Sanfield lives. Also Gary Snyder. I hope you visit the fine little grocery store near there, Mother Truckers!