Nevada County’s iconic Independence Trail was severely damaged by the Jones Fire, which erupted on the morning of August 17. The fire, which burned primarily on California State Park and Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT) land, consumed all wooden structures on the western portion of the trail, including the flumes, bridges and the Rush Creek Ramp. The trail west of Hwy 49 is currently closed to the public due to safety hazards, including destruction of the structures and soil instability.
About the Independence Trail
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.