Bridgeport’s wildflowers are worth the walk |

Bridgeport’s wildflowers are worth the walk

This time of year, South Yuba State Park (commonly known as Bridgeport) is one of the best places to see wildflowers. It’s close – about a half hour drive from Grass Valley. It’s accessible – the park’s Buttermilk Bend Trail is easily walkable for a 2.5-mile round trip. And it’s educational – a knowledgeable docent leads walks on the weekends.

Views from the trail are exceptional. The 20 miles of the Yuba River that run through the park are designated wild and scenic, and color is everywhere. Golds, yellows, blues, pinks and whites show up in flowering trees and bushes – in lupine, California poppies, buttercups, fiddlenecks, and owl’s clover, all of which, says wildflower expert Barbara Pixley, are in bloom right now.

A retired school teacher, Pixley is the docent usually on duty to lead the wildflower walks. She takes great delight in talking about how the flowers propagate, how to identify the 60 families of wildflowers with their hundreds of different species, and what the Native Americans used them for: “Poppy leaves were used for toothache, and yarrow as a general tonic.”

The flower display “is a play in three acts,” says Pixley, “with some blooming early, some mid-season, and others later.” While the season has traditionally started in March, warmer weather is causing flowers to start blooming earlier and may cause walks to commence in February next year.

The park is waging a war against imported alien species, such as Star Thistle and Scotch Broom, because they crowd out native plant species. “To educate the public about this growing threat is one of the important goals of the park,” the docent says, and she invites people to join in the next effort to “get rid of these nasty plants” on May 7.

Because even a few days can make the difference as to what flowers are in bloom, many nature lovers keep coming back. When the weather is great, as many as 30 visitors a day have attended the walks, with perhaps 600 people a season – some from other countries – making the trip. Good company in a park that is a jewel in nature’s crown.

For a “wildflower watch,” call the visitors center.


WHAT: Wildflower walks at Bridgeport (aka, South Yuba River State Park)

WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m., through Memorial Day, rain or shine.

WHERE: 17660 Pleasant Valley Road, Penn Valley (from Grass Valley take Highway 20 South, then right on Pleasant Valley Road. From the main gate at Lake Wildwood, it is seven miles).


INFORMATION: Call the Visitor’s Center, 432-2546, open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. If looking in the telephone book, it is under the state government, parks and recreation listing. Group tours are also available.

“Living History Days” takes place at the park April 23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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