Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the start of the “river season” in Nevada County, where locals and out-of-towners alike descend upon the Yuba River in droves, looking to cool down and enjoy the unparalleled beauty of area. For this reason, Memorial Day weekend is also the start of the South Yuba River Citizens League and California State Park’s River Ambassador Program. Now that the Yuba is “Instagram-famous”, the number of individuals who are coming to the river to recreate has risen exponentially. With the river so high, fast, and cold this year, the River Ambassador program has become all the more important as they educate newcomers and remind return visitors about river safety and etiquette.

River Ambassadors at Bridgeport
River Ambassadors at Bridgeport

Over the weekend, SYRCL’s River Ambassadors greeted guests from near and far. Stationed at Bridgeport and at the Highway 49 Crossing from Friday to Monday, River Ambassadors had meaningful conversations with more than 150 visitors, picked up nearly 500 pieces of trash and recycling, reminded visitors about river safety, talked about SYRCL’s restoration projects in the watershed, and answered their questions about the river.

Visitor questions

A few of the main questions visitors had were: “Where are the nearby hiking trails, how long are the trails, and what should we expect while hiking them? Can you look for gold in the Yuba River? Is there a good beach area where we can eat lunch? Are there any other places nearby where we can go swimming? How does the river flow fluctuate? What is causing the high flow? and When will it be safe to swim in the Yuba River?” SYRCL’s River Ambassadors answered all these questions and did their best to give people plenty of guidance on all the recreational activities our county has to offer.

SYRCL River Ambassadors at the 49 bridge
SYRCL River Ambassadors at the 49 bridge

“On Friday, at Highway 49, things were pretty relaxed. Everyone seemed pretty impressed with how high and fast the river was. It certainly seemed to inspire the proper amount of awe and fear to keep people out. Folks were happy to reconnect with the river from afar, whether that meant hiking along Hoyt’s Trail or just taking selfies from the bridge,” said Daniel Elkin, SYRCL’s Communications and Engagement Director.

Maddie Davis, SYRCL’s Community Engagement Manager added, “Thank you to the eight River Ambassador volunteers who dedicated their holiday weekend to the program and helped us start off the season strong! We had a passionate, kind, and outgoing crew on the river making connections. Through continued volunteer support, we can ensure that visitors are equipped with the knowledge to stay safe and preserve this cherished resource for generations to come.”

Volunteer River Ambassadors remind visitors that they can be good stewards of the river and the river community during their visit by parking responsibly, packing out what they pack in (and remembering to recycle), picking up after their pets, not starting fires, and leaving glass of any kind at home or in their cars.

Remember also that the river is cold, powerful, and dangerous this early in the season, so we are recommending that you Stay Out and Stay Alive.

Be a River Ambassador

By volunteering as a River Ambassador, you can help save lives, preserve the cleanliness of our beloved Yuba River, and show your community pride.

Sign up for one day, one weekend, one month, or the whole river season.

To become a River Ambassador, go to SYRCL’s website at or call the SYRCL offices at 530.265.5961

About SYRCL:

The South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL, pronounced “circle”) is the leading voice for the protection and restoration of the Yuba River watershed. Founded in 1983 through a rural, grassroots campaign to defend the South Yuba River from proposed hydropower dams, SYRCL has developed into a vibrant community organization with over 3,500 members and volunteers based in Nevada City, CA. For more information, please visit: