© photo by John Lillis
Although the whitewater season around Nevada City is brief, usually ending by late spring or early summer, the high mountain scenery makes that short window extremely sweet. The runs described here, all within an hour of town, are somewhat to very advanced.
Yuba Gap, Upper South Fork Yuba River – A wild, gripping, full-day run that begins with a 15’ boof onto a pillow, followed by 7 miles of gorges, big drops, steep boulder gardens, 10’-30’ slides, slots, and several portages (two mandatory). Consistent Class V for 5 miles. Flows around 300 are ideal (600 is too high, 200 is too low). The take-out is the Golden Quartz picnic area on Maybert Road, 2.7 miles east of the town of Washington. The put-in is Langs Crossing on Bowman Lake Road, where a marginal trail drops down to the river. As you drive east from Nevada City, Washington Road (to Washington) and Bowman Lake Road are both well-marked left-hand turns off Highway 20.
Washington to Edwards Crossing, South Fork Yuba – This scenic, 14-mile stretch is easy by South Yuba standards, but several tricky Class IV sections add danger – especially as it gets harder with flows above 1,000 cfs. The run starts with Class II-III rapids and powerful ledge drops. Just before mile 11, portage left around a 20-foot waterfall to a Class IV-V rapid with a consequential, re-circulating eddy. To reach take-out, follow 49 North in Nevada City where it splits from Highway 20, go .3 mile to a right turn onto N. Bloomfield road, and then right again after .6 mile at a T intersection. Drive downhill to Edwards Crossing. Reach the put-in by returning to Nevada City, turning east (toward Truckee) on Highway 20, and going 13 miles to a left at the sign for Washington, a quirky little town right on the river. The put-in is at a campground, with a parking fee, just before the historic district.
North Fork Yuba River – The popular Goodyear’s Bar run drops 8.5 miles through a forested canyon, beginning with 5 miles of Class II and III. The first Class IV rapid, Ramshorn, has two distinct channels to scout, and the next Class IV, Two Pair, also deserves careful scouting. Below those are Maytag and Son of Maytag, Class V- and IV, respectively. Good flows for kayaks are 700-2500 cfs. The Highway 49 Bridge take-out is about 29 miles north of Nevada City on Highway 49, passing the South Fork and Middle Fork Yuba along the way. The put-in is another 9 miles up the river, at a sign for Goodyear’s Bar and a road on the right.