Canyon Keepers help hikers and upkeep of trails |

Canyon Keepers help hikers and upkeep of trails

Each summer weekend, they set up shop at the American River confluence wearing their fishing vests and caps handing out trail guides and acting as the eyes and ears for an understaffed ranger district.

“What’s ASRACK?” people commonly ask, referring to the logo silk screened on the back of their vests.

Auburn State Recreation Area Canyon Keepers are a group of 50 or so active members who regularly make a presence on the American River’s confluence trails. Their shared knowledge of the local history, plant and animal populations, trail conditions and park rules is a welcome addition to the trail system by many of the million or so visitors who come to this part of California each year.

And yet this hot spot wasn’t a family environment as little as six years ago.

“There was a lot of rough ends, bad actors down here,” said Jim Ferris, chairman of the Canyon Keepers and co-author of the recently published book, “American River Canyon Hikes.”

Since the Canyon Keepers first started maintaining trails, rowdy drunks with a taste for illegal bridge and rock jumping are nearly a thing of the past. More and more families have joined the bicyclists, equestrian riders and runners who frequent the confluence trails.

“What we’ve done is make it a more user-friendly area for visitors,” said Ferris.

Over the years the docent group has labored to construct and maintain existing trails; they started a summer Junior Ranger Program for kids age 8 Ð12 and made trail guides available through their Web site and handouts distributed at the confluence. Those same trail guides plus maps and historical information are now available in the softbound book, which has sold 1,500 copies since its publication in December 2005.

“We’re striving toward educating the public in terms of the historical, cultural and ecological resources of this area,” said Ferris.

Each month guest speakers discuss history, geology and ecology at Canyon Keeper meetings. Hikes throughout Auburn State Recreation Area’s 43,000 acres are held throughout the year for members. Membership costs $15 for supporting members and $5 for active members who volunteer 16 hours a year to trails and informing the public who use them. Free training for volunteers will be held during May and June.

For further information about the Canyon Keepers’ activities, including e-mail notification with details about meetings and hikes call Jim Ferris at 530-885-3776 or e-mail

Canyon Keepers Web site is

Hiking guide book available

A companion guide well worth the $10 fee is the “American River Canyon Hikes – Practical Guides to Hikes in the Canyons of the North and Middle Forks American River” by the Auburn State Recreation Area Canyon Keepers.

An interpretive trail guide for the confluence is included in the book, which contains 21 trail guides pointing out historic and geologic landmarks along with area plants.

The book can be found at the ASRA office, the California Welcoming Center on Lincoln Way across from the Raley’s shopping center and in Nevada County at Mountain Recreation, Harmony Books and the Book Seller.

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