Nevada County, Calif. August 20, 2020 – The Jones Fire continues to burn in Nevada County while several agencies work jointly to combat the fire, protect life and property, and assess damages. California State Parks Department Resources Team is in the area of the burn today to assess damages to natural, cultural, and recreational resources while collaborating with CAL FIRE to develop a rehabilitation plan. Until further notice, a District Superintendent Order is in effect, closing all parking areas within South Yuba State Park, including the parking lots at the HWY 49 crossing, Independence Trail and Bridgeport. This includes all State Park’s lands, west of Highway 49, south of the South Yuba River, including Jones Bar Road. Restrooms will remain open.
The Independence Trail within South Yuba River State Park has been closed since earlier this spring due to landslides and bridge instability. The portion of the trail west of Highway 49 was severely impacted by the Jones Fire, resulting in the loss of several wooden flumes, and bridges. As such, the entirety of the Independence Trail on both sides of Highway 49 will be closed to public access until further notice. California State Parks and CAL FIRE will work in close partnership to rehabilitate damaged areas. California State Parks will also partner with the Bear Yuba Land Trust to survey and make plans for future repairs to the historic flumes and bridges.
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The Independence Trail follows the route of the historic Excelsior Ditch. Started in 1855, the Excelsior Ditch was constructed by the Excelsior Canal Company serving as a water transport ditch for mining, and later irrigation, covering 35 miles and terminating at the South Yuba River. The ditch operated until it was abandoned in 1961. A portion of the ditch on land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management was found eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. California State Parks owns the length of the Excelsior Ditch between Highway 49 to approximately 3 miles to the west. The Independence Trail, developed by Sequoya Challenge as a nature trail for wheelchair access during the 1970’s, includes three miles of the Excelsior Ditch. Remnants of the ditch are still evident along the trail in the form of dirt line ditches, reconstructed wooden flumes and bridges, and rock walls. Most of the wooden flumes were rebuilt in the 1970s-80s and again after they burned during the 1988 “49er Fire”.
Portions of the wooden flumes that burned during the recent Jones Fire dated to the 1970s-1990s. Though they were not original historic fabric, the loss of these features not only prohibits access to some of the trail’s most spectacular features, but also diminishes the sense of history engrained in the trail’s origin. State Parks intends to reconstruct the flumes following Secretary of Interior Standards for Reconstruction and looks forward to reopening the trail for future generations of Californians to enjoy.