Yuba South Fork Edwards to Purdons


Stretch: Edwards Crossing bridge to Purdons Crossing bridge
Difficulty: class IV, harder above 2000 cfs
Distance: 4 miles, 1 short day
Flows: kayaks 800 - 3000 cfs, IK minimum 200
Gauge: flow measured downstream at highway 49 (JBR)
Gradient: 65 fpm average
Put-in: highway bridge at Edwards Crossing, 1940'
Take-out: secondary bridge at Purdons Crossing, 1680'
Shuttle: 12 miles (30 minutes) one-way, partly on dirt road
Maps: USFS Tahoe NF, AAA Feather and Yuba, Topo
Season: spring, from snowmelt and dam spill
Agency: BLM, state parks, private
Notes: 1998, 2002, 2012. Photos © 2011 Tom Musolf, Loma Prieta Paddlers.

This is one of the most scenic class IV runs in California, and is easily approachable from Nevada City. In most years there are sufficient kayaking flows for several months, although the flow window for rafting can be short. The only drawback of this run is its relatively short river distance, but plentiful playspots permit an all-day run if you wish. Old guidebooks mention a broken-down dam with dangerous overhead wires, but this hazard has either been removed or has washed away, so no portages are necessary on this run.

The minimum kayak flow comes from the classic Holbek/Stanley guidebook, but most paddlers enjoy this stretch at flows lower than 800, which is good because flows are usually below that level. Pictures on this page were taken below the minimum IK flow! For pictures taken at higher flows, see the writeup at A Wet State. Here is Tom Musolf's trip report:

A group of us ran Edwards to Purdons on the South Fork Yuba at 184 cfs. This is a lower level than is commonly run, but still a whole lot of fun. A few more cfs would have been great, but hey, it was almost the end of July, the sun was warm, the water clear and the river was as scenic as ever. I'm glad we didn't let the low water keep us off of the river. There were only a couple of drops that we had to bump our way down; other than that everything channelized really well and there was always a good route through. There wasn't always a lot of room to maneuver, but we could often paddle right up the the lip of a drop before deciding which line to take. We boat scouted all but one drop.

A hiking trail follows the left bank for the entire distance, making beaches on that side popular with local sunbathers, and providing a possible foot-shuttle alternative. The South Yuba even has its own website. Excellent camping is available on the north bank uphill from put-in, if you want to combine this run with another in the area.

mile 0
Put in anywhere along the highway bridge. The right bank is rocky but there is a nice shady beach just upstream on river left.
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Looking upstream at put-in bridge  Early lunch stop at typical rapid
Flip Twice, class IV, possibly scout right
A long whitewater chute leads into a large curling hydraulic that can flip any kayak if approached from the wrong angle.
Embarrassment, class III+
Bedrock fence with rock outcropping on the left and cliff on the right offers a choice of several good kayak routes. This is one rapid that might be too narrow for rafts at low water.
Several class III rapids follow.
Easy-Ugly, class III+ or V+
The right side offers a class III+ route, but the middle sections look quite dangerous, with undercuts and body sieves everywhere. One spot in the middle looks like a flushing toilet at certain flows.
(no photos)
Post Easy-Ugly, class IV, possibly scout left
Two offset holes on center left, then a rock shelf and run-out. The best line seems to be on the left at all flows.
South Fork Yuba CA
Panorama of Post Easy-Ugly from the top 
South Fork Yuba CA South Fork Yuba CA
Hand slalom at Post Easy-Ugly  Lower part of Post Easy-Ugly
Pre-Dam, class IV
A long rapid with many rocky hydraulics.
Old broken down dam, no more wires hanging down in the river. The drop above, which angles to the left, could cause a swim. The angling drop is followed by a series of turbulent drops stretching past the old dam.
South Fork Yuba CA South Fork Yuba CA
Dam looks worse than it is  Looking downriver at Few Choices
Few Choices, class IV, constricted by many large boulders.
Last Big One, class III, a steep drop among large boulders.
South Fork Yuba CA South Fork Yuba CA
Drops get steeper at low flows  Cruising to the take-out
From here, class II-III read and run to take-out.
Purdons Crossing bridge. The left bank makes the best take-out. Missing this take-out could result in a portage fest.

Downstream of Purdon's Crossing, the gradient increases to 125 fpm then to 155 fpm in the final mile above the highway 49 bridge. With many undercut boulders and body strainers, it is a gnarly class V+ run with not all that much fun stuff. Downstream of highway 49 to Bridgeport is a great class V section, considered one of the best expert kayak runs in California, described here.

Shuttle Directions

To reach put-in from Nevada City, turn west from highway 20 onto highway 49 north. In only .3 mile, turn right onto North Bloomfield road. in another .6 mile, turn right at a T intersection and drive downhill on a paved road to Edwards Crossing. Parking is available uphill south of the bridge.

To reach take-out from there, return south to the T intersection, with North Bloomfield road, but continue straight instead of going south towards highway 49. After a right turn, this becomes Lake Vera-Purdons road, and soon changes to dirt for the descent down to river level.


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