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French Corral: The River Runs Through It

French Corral, a sleepy little ghost town area believed to be named after a French settler’s mule pen, is a community in transition. People seeking the beauty of the rural surroundings and the South Yuba River are building new homes and creating the next generation of settlers in the area between Penn Valley and North San Juan along Pleasant Valley Road. History buffs are familiar with nearby Bridgeport and its famous covered bridge.

“If you want to live in a little bit of history, buy in French Corral,” says Cary Stein, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Grass Roots Realty which has offices in Grass Valley, Nevada City and Penn Valley. French Corral was one of the first mining camps along the San Juan Ridge, where both hydraulic and standard mining occurred. In 1877, French Corral made history by being the site of the first long distance telephone line, connecting the town to the Milton Mining and Water Company in French Lake, 58 miles away.

Today, the old Wells Fargo structure, in the middle of French Corral, is a reminder of the area’s Gold Rush history. French Corral, in modern times, is relatively quiet, and local residents are happy with the more serene, rural character of the community, says Stein.



Real estate buyers have their choice of parcels from one acre to several hundred acres and above, says Stein, who actively markets in the French Corral area as well as other parts of Nevada County. Developed properties include everything from trailers to $300,000 homes on up to a 300-acre, $2.3 million parcel that includes 3,000 feet of river frontage, houses, cabins and a pond. Elevation is about 2,000 feet, slightly higher than Penn Valley but not high enough to be a snow area, typically.

Buyers may want to investigate the Troost Trail area, in which a number of 30-acre parcels are being marketed, according to Stein. Also available are parcels at Dudley Ranch with spectacular long views. They include a 14-acre parcel listed at $225,000; a well needs to be produced on the property. The area is right for alternative power sources, says Stein.




“French Corral was once kind of funky but those properties are being replaced with nicer homes. It’s transitioning from a very rural community to one of more custom built, mid-level homes. There are also now some beautiful estates out there,” says Stein. “It is starting to become its own place.”

An unincorporated area of Nevada County, French Corral is home to small cattle farms and equestrian facilities such as Teamwork Equine Services, which offers training and other services. The meandering, rolling hills and pasture land make it ideal for large animals. Look closely and you’ll see Texas Longhorn cattle, an interesting feature in the French Corral and surrounding areas.

One of French Corral’s most valuable assets is the South Yuba River which runs through the community, providing many property owners with beautiful river views, river frontage and easy access to the river for recreation, Stein says. South Yuba River State Park is a popular site for swimming, hiking, and enjoying the scenic views and the abundant wildflowers that appear in spring. The South Yuba Independence Trail – a wheelchair accessible trail – is enjoyed by many outdoor enthusiasts. The park can be accessed at Bridgeport, at one end, and winds it way along a 20-mile stretch to the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park in Nevada City.

At Bridgeport, the park’s main attraction is the arched, covered wood bridge, circa 1862, a national and state historic landmark. At 251 feet, it is the longest, single span covered bridge in the country, one of ten such structures left in California. Visitors can walk across the bridge and get a dramatic view of the river as well.

When it comes time to dining after all that hiking, a local favorite is Peterson’s Corner restaurant at the intersection of Pleasant Valley Road and Highway 49 in Nevada City. For grocery shopping there is the colorful Mother Trucker’s Market at Tyler Foote Crossing and Oak Tree Road. French Corral residents also drive the ten minutes or so into Penn Valley to shop at the Holiday Market or Palermo’s grocery stores.

Just minutes away from the town centers of Penn Valley or Grass Valley, historic French Corral is becoming a more popular real estate site for people seeking country quiet and atmosphere. Unlike Sacramento, Stein, says, Nevada County’s real estate market, in general, continues to be robust. “We are in a want-to-live-in area,” says Stein. Early retirees, businesspeople and families drawn to work for local businesses are attracted to the water features and river front properties in communities such as French Corral, says Stein. Second home investments are also popular, he says.

French Corral- Zip code: 95977

Elevation: 522 ft.

Location: Northern California, between Penn Valley and North San Juan. Nevada County.

Population: 70

Public Schools:

Nevada Union High School: 9-12

Pleasant Valley Elementary: 4-8

Ready Springs Elementary: K-8

Williams Ranch Elementary: K-3

Penn Valley Community Day: 6 -8

Colleges/Universities nearest to French Corral:

America River College (About 49 Miles)

California State University-Sacramento (About 58 Miles)

Sierra College (NC Campus, -10 Miles, Rocklin Campus-30 Miles)


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