50 Acres, Established 2012
Access: Public access allowed.
Conservation Values: Aquatic and riparian habitat, blue oak-foothill pine woodland, historic mining site
Near the confluence of Deer Creek and the Lower Yuba River, Black Swan Preserve is the story of nature reclaimed. This Preserve near the town of Smartsville, located off Mooney Flat Road on the border of Nevada and Yuba counties, abounds with riparian habitat, blue oak-foothill pine woodlands, and great groundwater-fed ponds.
It’s an archeologist’s dream with Gold Rush-era townsites, great hardrock tunnels and the towering hydraulic-eroded bluffs of Blue Point Mine. Long before the miners altered the landscape with water cannons and ditches, Native Americans fished for salmon in Deer Creek.
In 2012, Bear Yuba Land Trust was approved to receive a grant from the CalTrans Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program to acquire this “highly sensitive” 50 acres. With mining’s legacy hydraulic pond and diggings, the property is now home to a rich variety of wildlife, birds and the Western pond turtle, a species of special of concern. BYLT trails team and volunteers have built two miles of trail around the pond with more on the way.
Black Swan Preserve will ultimately be transferred to California Department of Fish and Wildlife once the pond and riparian area is restored and the trail system is complete.
Cool Facts: Smooth cobbles from the ancient Yuba River, once Amazonian in size, can still be found on the Black Swan Trail along with traces of the Gold Rush era Excelsior Ditch (also found along the Independence Trail).
Flora and Fauna: Common tree species include gray pine (Pinus sabiniana) and blue oak (Quercus douglasii). Shrubs include buck brush (Ceanothus cuneatus) and silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons). Interesting forbs found near the pond include umbrella sedge (Cyperus eragrostis) and duckweed (Lemna minor). The pond is critical habitat for the Western pond turtle(Actinemys marmorata), as well as bass (Moronidae family), an array of waterfowl including the American Dipper(Cinclus mexicanus) and Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon).
History: In the late 1800s, Black Swan Preserve was the site of a large ranch and homestead.None of this information pertains to our land. Look for lichen-covered stone walls and an old date orchard dating back to this time. On deer creek, sacred fishing pools and grinding rocks can be found. Along the river, great stone walls built by Chinese miners who toiled at the Black Swan hydraulic diggins.
What to do there: Hike the beautiful two mile Black Swan Trail. Fish in the pond. Go birding. Look for animal tracks. Look for cobble on the trail from the ancient Amazonian-sized Yuba River that once flowed here. NO HUNTING.
Future: A plan is underway to build miles of new trail, linking the existing trail system at the pond to Deer Creek and the Yuba River. Restoration around the pond will include improving nesting sites for Western pond turtles, removing invasive bullfrogs and planting native grasses and forbs for improved health of the land.
How to get there: The trailhead is located off of Mooney Flat road in Smartsville, CA. From the intersection of Hwy 49 and Hwy 20 near Grass Valley, drive 13 miles toward Smartsville, turn right (North) on Mooney Flat Road. If you see the Yuba County sign on Highway 20, you have gone too far. Once you are on Mooney Flat Road, drive approximately ¼ mile. Turn left into small parking lot area.
Head down the two track ranch road toward the gate and you will see the trail leaving the parking lot to the left.
If coming from Yuba City/Marysville area, head East on Highway 20. Be on the lookout after passing the Smartsville Fire station on the left. Soon after you enter Nevada County, turn left onto Mooney Flat road. Head down Mooney Flat approximately a 1/4 mile and look for the dirt parking lot on the left. Turn down into the lot and park. There is a trail head sign leading visitors from the parking lot onto the trail. If you don’t see it, head down the two track road towards the gate. You can’t miss it.
Rules, regulations: Dogs on leash. No motorized vehicles. Stay on trails. Foot and bike. No smoking. No littering. Fishing allowed with a California license.