South Yuba River State Park: Bridgeport covered bridge and wildflowers
As spring cracks opens its doors, the multitude of wildflowers at South Yuba River State Park’s Bridgeport area pop up their heads. No time is better to visit the Bridgeport Historic Covered Bridge, take a hike along the river on the Point Defiance Trail, or enjoy a guided wildflower walk on the Buttermilk Bend Trail.
We took that opportunity recently for the first time after a couple of years and thoroughly enjoyed the Point Defiance Loop Trail. The 1.2-mile Buttermilk Bend Trail is highly touted for its wildflowers, and docents conduct guided wildflower walks there every Saturday from mid-March through mid-May. We however this time went with the 2.7-mile Point Defiance Loop.
Of five trails you can easily access from Bridgeport, the Point Defiance loop is the longest and skirts along the South Fork of the Yuba River as well as along Englebright Lake. Not only that, there are a few nicely placed picnic tables as well as group campgrounds and beaches where you can have lunch or just enjoy the views. Click here to download a brochure about all the trails, or brochures with maps and descriptions of each individual trail.
Bridgeport Covered Bridge at South Yuba River State Park
But first there is that beautiful covered bridge that opened in 1862 (the image of the bridge at the top of this story was from 2011, before it was closed for repairs). Bridgeport Bridge (or “Woods Crossing”) is in fact the longest single-span covered bridge in existence in the world. Today, it is 229 feet long at the ridgeline and combines truss and arch systems. As many timber bridges in that day, it was covered to protect the wood from the weather. Bridgeport was in fact an important part of the route from San Francisco to the mines of Virginia City, Nev. It was closed to vehicles in 1972.
After damage was discovered, Bridgeport Bridge was closed and then stabilized in 2015 with a temporary structure. The threat existed it would be permanently closed and even torn down without the budget. After campaigning and fundraising by Save the Yuba River Citizen’s League, In January 2017, California’s Governor Jerry Brown included the $3.226 million needed for complete restoration in the 2017-18 budget.
Click here for more information and, as the Save our Bridge campaign says, stay tuned if you are interested in history since more volunteers or action may be needed.
Meanwhile, you can take a look at the bridge and go for hikes, wildflower walks or bird-watching expeditions in the area, or swim and picnic when the weather is warm.
Hiking Point Defiance from Bridgeport Covered Bridge
We parked in the upper parking lot, crossed the road, and immediately were on the trail. We turned left and a skip later were on the north side of the bridge. Walk past that (unless the rehab work is done and you can walk through it!). The signed trail wanders quite gently for a mile or so along the river, although there are plenty of rocks to get in your way on this narrow section. We saw plenty of wild irises on this mid-March pre-spring day as well as what are formally called Dichelostemma Capitatum and informally called “Blue Dicks.” (Really, do not ask us why. We think the name is as strange as you may think.) Once around the point, the trail heads gently upward for about three-quarters of a mile as it also widens out without all the rock hurdles. Once at the top, the trail meanders gently through meadows and oaks until you hit a short switchback section back down to the parking lot.
Go for the hike, stay for the wildflowers. And birds. And swimming. And…
Don’t miss the wildflowers in the area. The walks are popular and take place every Saturday during the spring season. You can also call the park for information on conditions (530-423-2546). Rain may cancel so call to check if it is threatening.
For more wildflower viewing in the area, be sure to read Sierra foothills wildflowers hike: Fields of California wildflowers and Table Mountain Reserve – Amazing California wildflowers and waterfalls.
Flowers not your thing but birds are? South Yuba State Park has you covered for bird watching too — once a month all year long. You can also call the park at the number above for conditions and information.
South Yuba River State Park has it all and is just enough off the beaten path to not have throngs of people to battle your way through. Still, it is popular. And why shouldn’t it be with wildflowers, walks, birds, hikes, water, swimming, camping, beaches….
Directions: The park is located just north of Highway 20, between highways 99 and 49. There are multiple ways to get there depending on your origin.
Enjoy a 360-degree panorama of the Bridgeport Covered Bridge
Use your mouse to click and drag (or the arrows on your computer keyboard to move the view left, right, up or down) or if you are on your smartphone, simply tilt your phone or turn yourself to change viewing angles. To see all of our 360-degree panorama images from South Yuba River State Park, click here.