Preparing a Picnic at the River for the Fourth of July: What to Bring (and What Not to Bring)

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Having the right food is important for a trip to the river. With the current fire restrictions in place by the South Yuba River State Park, some foods work better than others. This Fourth of July holiday, we ask you to leave your grills at home and pack a ready-to-go meal instead.

In collaboration with Parks Interpretive Specialist, Allyssa Borich, we’ve outlined some guidelines on how to best pack your picnic basket for your trip to the Yuba.


1) Go the reusable route: The Yuba River hosts over 800,000 visitors every year. With this large amount of visitors, any trash left behind from picnics builds up quickly. This is why we recommend bringing your snacks in reusable containers. 

2) Bring ready-to-eat meals: The Yuba River canyon is currently under a burn ban. This ban encompasses campfires as well as grills and barbecues (it even includes cigarettes). This means you are not allowed to cook food at the river. Any fire has the potential to grow out of control; with the drought and high heat conditions providing plenty of dry fodder for fire, the river canyon is at particularly high risk. Last summer, the Jones Fire spread quickly, branding a scar into the forested hills and serves as a reminder of just how flammable the river canyon is. Although grilling up hot dogs or burgers may sound nice, lighting up the grill can come with a hefty fine and put our whole community at risk. Keep it cool, and opt for a pre-cooked picnic instead.

3) Pack lots of water and electrolytes: Remember to stay hydrated under the summer sun with a cool drink. Water is a great option. Alcohol, on the other hand, can contribute to dehydration. Additionally, it impairs motor skills, putting drinkers at a higher risk for drowning. Please remember to leave your glass containers and alcohol at home as they are prohibited within the State Park.

4) Pack out what you pack in: Help us leave no trace in this Wild & Scenic river canyon and keep it a pristine place for recreation and ecosystem biodiversity by taking your trash with you when you leave.ready-

While these regulations may rule out certain foods, there are plenty of tasty options to bring for a day on the river. Here are a few ideas for making your picnic as low-impact as possible.

Whether you pack your own or pick something up, take a look at the packaging your food comes in and go minimal. If you bring food from home, opt for reusable containers or wraps, such as beeswax wrap. This helps to keep plastics out of the trash and out of the river.

Freeze a few water bottles the night before, and use them as ice packs to keep your food cold without taking up extra space. Once they thaw, you’ll be able to enjoy ice cold water in the heat of the afternoon.

Not only do you lose water as you sweat, you also lose salts. Make sure to pack salty snacks or supplements to replenish electrolytes throughout the day.

Although food waste seems biodegradable, human food can wreak havoc on wildlife. Make sure to pack out all food scraps at the end of your trip with the rest of your trash.

BriarPatch, which is located in Grass Valley, sent us some of their suggestions for an easy grab-n-go lunch or dinner.

  • Fresh, locally grown fruit, like delicious organic Blenheim apricots and blueberries & strawberries from JSM Organics
  • Veggie Crudités that include locally grown French breakfast radishes from Stone’s Throw Farm
  • Pita with falafel or hummus & tabouli
  • Caprese salad sammies (good baguette, olive oil, mozzarella, locally grown basil and heirloom tomatoes, a few olives, balsamic, salt & pepper – meat-eaters can add salami)
  • BriarPatch Dolmas
  • Sunflower Pate
  • At the Deli Counter, pick up a salad (by the pound); Lemon Orzo, Village, Antipasto, Fruit and Quinoa – ask for the biodegradable box!
  • Proud Source Water or pick up a Kleen Kanteen
  • Don’t forget the Black Gold cookies from the BriarPatch Bakery!

SPD, our local grocery store in Nevada City, also makes sandwiches to go for under $10 at their deli counter and is a great pick for an easy low-impact lunch.

On behalf of all of us at South Yuba River State Park and South Yuba River Citizens League, we hope that you enjoy your visit at the Yuba River. Please remember to pack out what you pack in, and leave our river crumb clean. Stay safe and enjoy your visit!

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