Love the Yuba like a local |

Love the Yuba like a local

Melinda Booth
Special to The Union

With an estimated 700,000 visitors each year, the secret is out about this region’s gem, the South Yuba River State Park.

It is one of the most visited attractions in Nevada County in the summer thanks to emerald green swimming holes and polished granite boulders. To keep it from being “loved to death,” the South Yuba River Citizens League and the South Yuba River State Park run an innovative River Ambassador Program that’s designed to create a culture of stewardship at the Yuba River.

Stewards of the river

Now in its seventh year, the River Ambassador Program trains volunteer stewards who greet visitors at popular State Park river crossings during the summer. They encourage environmentally responsible recreation through friendly conversation and education. The goal is to enrich visitors’ experiences while protecting the watershed.

The River Ambassador booths are incredibly welcoming. They feature interactive games and signage that promote responsible actions, such as removing trash, glass and dog waste.

South Yuba River Citizens League wants Yuba river goers to have fun and be safe. Last year, the opening of the river season coincided with unexpected quantities of snow melt rushing into the system. Just when visitors started to seek relief from the sun, the Yuba was running fast and cold, as were other rivers across the state.

More than 19 people perished on California rivers in 2017, including three on the Yuba. These tragedies, as well as the freezing Yuba currents, raised the stakes for State Parks personnel and emergency responders throughout the county, and for River Ambassadors, too.

“In June of 2017, I saw groups of friends and families arriving with wide smiles, toting pool floaties, pop-up tents and ice chests. River Ambassadors welcomed them … then we asked them to stay out of the water,” said Whitney Logue, South Yuba River Citizens League’s former River Ambassador coordinator.

Responses ranged from surprise to indignation, such as “It’s normally safe this time of year,” or “I know what I’m doing, I’ve been coming here for years.”

South Yuba River Citizens League’s partnership with California State Parks ensures that, should there be an emergency, River Ambassadors have a way to communicate with the Park’s staff. But rescue personnel can’t be everywhere — the South Yuba River State Park spans 20 river miles. South Yuba River Citizens League recommends that Yuba visitors start the 2018 river season with awareness.

Take care

To enjoy the Yuba safely requires some common-sense steps:

Look The river changes season to season depending on flows and snow melt. Boulders will shift and debris could obstruct familiar swim ways. Before going in, look for obstructions by scouting safe landings and swim routes with a mask.

Grip — Granite boulders, which make the Yuba so picturesque, are slick and slippery. Use three points of contact when walking through and across rocks.

Protect — Moving water is powerful and hides debris that could trap arms and legs. If you get caught in fast water, tuck arms and legs toward the mid-line of the body to avoid being trapped under water.

River Ambassadors are prepared with these safety messages, too. They’ll also be educating folks about the polluting impacts of trash and dog waste, the dangers of broken glass, and the catastrophic potential of wildfire.

South Yuba River Citizens League has close to 40 volunteers with the River Ambassador program. For all the incredible work they do, they still need volunteers to help keep the Yuba clean, safe, and healthy.

To join the River Ambassadors team, sign up online or contact Siya Phillips at 530-265-5961 x 212. For more information, please visit

This article came from the Adventure Nevada County Magazine. Melinda Booth is the executive director of the South Yuba River Citizens League. She brings more than 16 years of experience in environmental conservation and advocacy to protect and restore the Yuba River watershed. Before joining SYRCL, she focused her career on saving iconic species like bears, wolves, and salmon in the American West.

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