Jones Fire Destroys Independence Trail Structures- Help Keep the Legacy Alive!

Photo Credit: Elias Funez

Dear Friends,
It is with heavy hearts we report that the beloved Independence Trail has suffered significant damage from the Jones Fire this week. We have recently learned that all wooden structures within the fire perimeter along Independence Trail West, including the iconic flume spanning Rush Creek and the Rush Creek Ramp, were consumed by the blaze. Built with the hands of local volunteers under the vision of John Olmsted, this heartfelt endeavor became the first wheelchair accessible wilderness trail in the United States.

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 western half was in the direct line of the fire.

As our community mourns this incredible loss, let’s remember the many memories created over the years. We invite you to share your images and stories using #IndependenceTrail or by submitting them to for BYLT to post. The legacy will live on!

Once the smoke clears, we are committed to the rebuild and are going to need your support! Donations, of any amount, are now being accepted. Help us rebuild Independence Trail at

With deep gratitude and appreciation,
BYLT Staff and Board of Directors

One Man’s Vision: The Story of John Olmsted & Independence Trail

In 1854 Excelsior Mining and Canal Company, which operated six hydraulic mines in the area, was running short on water from its China Ditch on Deer Creek. In order to ensure the mining operation continued, Excelsior Ditch was constructed between 1859-1863.

In the 1970s, John Olmsted, a docent of the Oakland Museum, rediscovered the rock-lined ditches, adjacent paths for ditch tenders, and wood bridges, also known as flumes, which provided access over the steep canyon ravines. Upon seeing the old flumes, Olmsted was inspired to construct Independence Trail using the framework provided by the historic mining legacy. Soon, this unusual path would fulfill his friend’s lifelong dream of reaching out and touching wildflowers from a wheelchair in nature. After years of tireless dedication and land purchases totaling over 1,000 acres, John enlisted the help of many generous donors and numerous hard working volunteers to create the country’s very first wheelchair accessible wilderness trail.

Photo Courtesy of The Union
Independence Trail Will Live On
Bear Yuba Land Trust is committed to working with community partners to rebuild what was lost. It is going to take a village! If you’d like to make a charitable contribution or learn of the many ways you can support, please email Jorie Emory at