Officials warn swimmers of dangers at Yuba River |

Officials warn swimmers of dangers at Yuba River

North San Juan and Nevada County Consolidated firefighters responded Memorial Day to a woman in distress in the south fork of the Yuba River at twin bridges off of Highway 49, prompting safety officials to warn of the seasonal dangers of cold, fast-moving water.

“The river was too much for her and she was unable to swim,” North San Juan Volunteer Fire Department Chief Boyd Johnson said.

The woman’s friends pulled her out of the water and she was transported by firefighters one-quarter of a mile to the bridge. The woman was not seriously injured, Johnson said, but others have not been so lucky.

Last year, three men drowned in early summer as a result of underestimating the water’s power. Two of them – Zachary Harder of Roseville and Mark Ray of Manchester, England – were killed in the same spot as Monday’s incident when the powerful current trapped them under water.

Drownings happen every summer in the south fork. Compared to last year’s three fatalities on the river, one person drowned in 2005 and four people drowned in 2004.

“It’s a seasonal problem,” Johnson said. “The water is relatively high and cold this time of year.”

He estimated the water will not be safe to swim in for at least another month, when it is expected to slow down and warm up.

River water flow is measured in cubic feet per second. California State Parks personnel have said no water speed is completely safe, but a speed of 100 cubic feet per second or below is reasonable.

Average speeds in August, officials say, are 50 to 60 cubic feet per second.

Real-time flow rates for the south fork of the Yuba River are available online at


To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail or call 477-4236.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User