South Yuba River State Park
South Yuba River State Park is a surprise of wonderfully preserved bridges, great hiking trails, brilliant scenery and a very nice little visitor center during an early January trip. During the summer it is a popular spot for swimming, kayaking, horseback riding and canoeing. It can
best be thought of as a twenty mile non-continuous string of properties along the river. South Yuba River is one of seventy state parks set to close in July, 2012 so I thought I better have a look now.
The easiest access to the park by car is off of Pleasant Valley Road from State Highway 40. The turnoff is about 8 miles west of Grass Valley. From there Pleasant Valley Road winds through Penn Valley, some country estates, a school and nice scenery until after another eight miles you arrive in the old town of Bridgeport. There is not now and never was much to the town of Bridgeport even though the South Yuba River runs through it. Descendants of one of the pioneer families of the area, the Kneebones, developed a popular swim resort in Bridgeport in 1926 it included a dance pavillion, gas station and several cottages. However with the continuation of hydraulic mining the resort eventually went out of business.
Today Bridgeport contains the South Yuba River Visitor Center, a restored gas station and the world's longest covered wooden bridge. There are several hiking trails that also leave this area with one connecting with Malakoff Diggins State Park some 20 miles up the river.
The Bridgeport Covered Bridge is worth seeing. Originally constructed in 1862 this beautiful bridge was constructed with douglas fur trusses, wrought iron rods, and covered in sugar pine shakes. The bridge served as a means of crossing a river whose flows often were above flood level during spring months. Today the bridge is not in use and is gated to protect from vandalism.
In the same area the gas station from the Bridgeport Swim Resort has recently been rebuilt. It stands a few hundred feet from the visitor center. Plans by a local historical group are to restore part of the structures of the Swim Resort in the next few years.
The park is also noteworthy in that one of the trails, Independence Trail, is completely handicapped accessible. It was the first major trail in any state or federal national park to be completely handicapped accessible.
Take a 20 minute side trip to the small town of Washington. Hang at the Washington Hotel. Sit on the outside deck and ejoy the views over the Yuba River or play horseshoes with the locals. Very friendly staff and don't be intimdated by the Harleys...
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