River Ambassadors: What we Learned from Our First Weekend

The River Ambassador season has officially begun, with River Captains and volunteers stationed at Highway 49 and Bridgeport and Purdon crossings to welcome visitors to the South Yuba and speak to them about river safety and etiquette. We would love for you to join us as a volunteer anytime in the next 14 weekends – make a difference for the Yuba by signing-up here. We learned a lot about our visitors, including where they are coming to us from, whether or not they are first-timers, what they want to know, and some of the reasons people return. 

Where are our visitors from? 

Most of our visitors are joining us from within a 3.5-hour drive (without traffic, that is). Our River Ambassadors greeted many visitors from Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Reno. We also had a number of visitors make the much longer drive to swim in our emerald waters from Los Angeles and Orange County. 

Some visitors made the trek to the Yuba from places as far away as Wisconsin and Toronto.

As word continues to spread, the River Ambassador program becomes all the more important to educate newcomers and remind return visitors about river safety and etiquette.

Are our visitors first-timers?

While a number of people were first-timers, most of the people with whom we spoke this weekend had been to the Yuba before. Many came last year and were returning with friends to show them the beautiful beach at Hoyt’s Crossing or point out the recent renovation of the covered bridge at Bridgeport. Others returned after several years to rediscover the river’s beauty.

What do visitors want to know?

Most visitors need help finding their way and are relieved to be greeted by a River Ambassador who can tell them the location of the trailhead or the safest route. Without cell service, many people can’t access the maps or apps they would normally use to figure out where they are, where they need to be, and how to get there. The new river safety bandana, which was developed by the Yuba River Safety Cohort, features all 39 miles of the state-designated Wild & Scenic stretch of the South Fork of the Yuba. The bandana has been a great way to not only help visitors navigate but to also share important safety information about fire bans, leave no trace principles, and picking up after their pets. 

Visitors enjoying the Yuba on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend under the Highway 49 bridge.
thumbs up at 49
SYRCL's Communications and Engagement Director, Daniel Elkin at the River Ambassador booth at Highway 49 crossing.
One of our four-legged visitors wearing the 2022 safety bandana.

What Brings People to the Yuba?

The South Yuba River is one of the most visited attractions in Nevada County, thanks to its signature emerald green swimming holes and picturesque granite boulders. Each summer, the Yuba’s popularity attracts thousands of river goers.

“This place is magical,” one visitor told us when asked what brought her to the river that day. After years of being away, her memories of the place drew her back to the cool waters and granite boulders. 

Other people with whom we spoke came on the recommendation of a friend, who had told them about the beauty of the place.

The South Yuba River watershed features dozens of trails, creeks, meadows, and rivers to explore. This area also has a deep history and is home to Indigenous peoples. You can  be a good steward to the river and the river community during your visit by parking responsibly, packing out what you pack in, picking up after your pet, not starting fires, and leaving glass of any kind at home.

Get Involved

 If you’d like to learn more about how to talk with visitors, volunteer with us and become a River Ambassador. This unique partnership with State Parks will give you the opportunity to practice teaching our visitors how to love the Yuba like a local. Plus, you get to hang out with some of our fantastic and fun SYRCL crew.

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