On Wednesday, Aug. 26, County and State officials and community leaders came together to assess the Jones Fire damage to the Independence Trail, the first wheelchair accessible wilderness trail in the United States; participants included California State Parks, the County of Nevada, CalFire, Nevada County Sheriff’s Department, Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT) and Sierra Gold Parks Foundation, among other stakeholders. Findings conclude that portions of the trail west of Highway 49, owned by State Parks and BYLT, were severely impacted by the blaze resulting in the loss of several wooden flumes, the overlook platform, benches, handrails and the Rush Creek Ramp.
Due to the assessed damage on the west trail plus the instability of the flumes on the east trail, the entirety of the Independence Trail as well as neighboring state park lands will be closed to public access until further notice.
You can help keep the legacy of the Independence Trail alive by donating today!
In September, a multi-agency and stakeholder committee met to discuss and plan for the repair and rebuild of the Independence Trail to modern standards. The ongoing efforts will include surveying, planning, and a phased reconstruction of the trail, beginning in late 2020. A GoFundMe has been launched to help kickstart the rebuild with a goal of raising $500,000 over the next 6 months.
Independence Trail: Learn About John Olmsted’s Vison:
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 and Bear Yuba Land Trust own the length of the Excelsior Ditch between Highway 49 to approximately 2 miles to the west and 2 miles to the east. The Independence Trail was developed by John Olmsted and his nonprofit 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”. In 2012, Bear Yuba Land Trust was entrusted with ownership of the 207-acre Sequoya Challenge Preserve in the South Yuba River canyon which consists of seven separate parcels interspersed with California State Parks land along both the east and west portions of the Independence Trail bisected by Highway 49. The goal is for the Bear Yuba Land Trust parcels to transfer to State Parks and become part of the South Yuba River State Park.
Many hands will be required to bring back this historical and culturally significant community gem.
Interested in contributing to the Independence Trail rebuild by selling handmade goods, or hosting an event? Read more about Third-Party Fundraising by clicking on the button below.