Yuba North Fork near Sierra City


Stretch: Haypress Creek (Sierra City) to Downieville
Difficulty: class IV with several class V rapids, harder at high flows
Distance: 13 miles, 1 day
Flows: kayaks 500 - 2500, small rafts 700, IK minimum 300
Gauge: estimate 60% of the flow at Goodyear Bar (USGS site)
Gradient: 109 fpm average
Put-in: bridge between highway 49 and Wild Plum campground, 4240'
Take-out: beautiful downtown Downieville, 2880'
Shuttle: 13 miles (20 minutes) one-way
Maps: Plumas NF, AAA Feather and Yuba, Topo
Season: spring, from snowmelt
Agency: USFS, private
Notes: © 1998 Bill Tuthill, CreeksYahoo

This classic run may be combined with nearby Pauley and Lavezzola creeks for a fun-filled weekend with plenty of good camping and fine dining in Downieville, a mountain biking mecca. At low water the rapids are very rocky and technical, and at higher flows the hydraulics become large and intimidating. By the time Pauley and Lavezzola become too low to run, this one is also. Reservations are recommended for motels in Downieville; see this website for example. There are also plenty of USFS campgrounds in the vicinity.

Put in near the confluence of the north fork Yuba and Haypress Creek, near the road bridge connecting highway 49 with Wild Plum campground. Class IV rapids start immediately and are almost continuous. Scout whenever you cannot see a route.
Gillespie Dam, formerly two meters high, but somewhat eroded by the flood of 1997. The normal route is still the left, no longer involving a ski jump. Stay clear of dam debris.
Highway 49 comes back into view, and the gradient diminishes somewhat.
Ladies Canyon, class V, road scout beforehand
A steep drop into a fearsome hole, somewhat less monstrous at low flows, followed by a class IV rapid. A full portage is possible on the left (tough), a partial portage is possible around the hole on the right side (easier). When doing shuttle, look downstream from Ladies Canyon creek.
Gradient tapers off somewhat. Union Flat campground on river right, alternate put-in preferred by rafters.
Moss Canyon, class V-, road scout beforehand
The river enters a mile-long canyon with many difficult rapids. Three drops stand out as bigger than the others; Boss Moss is the biggest, and verges on class V at higher flows.
Easier rapids to Downieville.
Hazard! In June 2003 there was a pine tree all the way across the river in this section.
Jim Crow Creek enters on the left, marking the Shangri-La Resort. A bridge there makes an alternate take-out.
Flow almost doubles at confluence with Downie River, a combination of Downie Creek, Lavezzola Creek, and Pauley Creek.
Take out on the right bank below the first bridge undercrossing.
To reach take-out, drive north from Nevada City on highway 49, crossing the south and middle forks of the Yuba. When highway 49 descends to the north fork Yuba, you see many USFS campground along the river. Continue upriver until reaching the town of Downieville, where you park in a public square lot on the right. The river bridge is nearby.

To reach put-in from there, continue uphill on 12 miles on highway 49, past the hamlet of Sierra City, and take a right turn towards Wild Plum campground. The bridge is about half a mile further, the campgrounds about 1 and 1.5 mile. Generally speaking, upstream campgrounds are less crowded than downstream campgrounds.


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