Partner Spotlight: South Yuba River Citizens League | Cal Parks

Partner Spotlight: South Yuba River Citizens League

Published: November 20, 2020

The South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) was founded in 1983 by grassroots activists determined to protect the South Yuba River from dams. Ultimately, SYRCL won permanent protections for 39 miles of the South Yuba River under California’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Today, SYRCL is the central hub of community activism to protect, restore, and celebrate the Yuba River watershed. With over 37 years of achievements, 3,500 members and 1,300 active volunteers, SYRCL is doing great things for the Yuba watershed. They are working to restore wild salmon to their native waters, replanting the banks of the Goldfields with trees, and inspiring activism across the globe with their environmental film festival. SYRCL is extending their powerful coalition from the Sierra to the sea.

California State Parks Foundation and SYRCL have been partnering for years to support the River Ambassador program at South Yuba River Park, which sees more than 700,000 visitors each year. River Ambassadors are volunteers taking action to motivate and educate the community to care for the South Yuba River. This dedicated team promotes an ethic of responsible, non-polluting use of the river by speaking one-on-one with visitors at crossings, beaches, and on trails.

But with COVID-19 this summer, this program needed to safely pivot and still find a way to educate and support visitors. With a grant from California State Parks Foundation, SYRCL was able to resume critical programing within the South Yuba River State Park system by adapting the River Ambassador program to conduct its outreach and safety educational activities in alternative ways. Funding helped to develop an educational signage campaign which messaged on “pack-it-in and pack-it-out” ethics, fire safety, water safety, social distancing on trails and pet waste etiquette. Because California State Parks volunteers were on hiatus due to COVID-19, the program used traditional and social media to get the word out about river safety and responsible river stewardship. SYRCL was able to engage people online rather than in-person at the river. Further, the program helped designed and distribute 3,000+ bandanas with a map of the state park’s trails that also included critical safety messaging.

“This grant from the California State Parks Foundation will allow the River Ambassador program to be innovative and responsive during this summer of COVID-19, helping State Parks and the South Yuba River Citizens League meet the needs of tens of thousands of visitors eager to enjoy the trails and beaches of the South Yuba River Park.” 

- Melinda Booth, Executive Director, South Yuba River Citizens League 

In addition to the River Ambassador program, SYRCL has many other programs to benefit the river, such as its annual Yuba River Cleanup, youth education, river monitoring, river and meadow restoration, science and forest health. One of the newest programs they’re involved in is the Life Jacket Loaner Stations, which is co-run by California State Parks and Nevada County. Loaner life jackets are available for visitors at the Highway 49 Bridge and Hoyt’s Crossing, in addition to the life jackets stations found at South Yuba River State Park’s headquarters at Bridgeport Crossing. Each location has multiple life jackets in different sizes, ranging from infant to adult oversize.


SYRCL’s work on education and visitor safety makes the South Yuba River State Park a model for innovation and partnership, and a beautiful place to spend a day.

This 20-mile portion of the South Yuba River canyon stretches from Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park to Bridgeport covered bridge. The area includes the longest single-span covered bridge in the world (currently closed for restoration), the steep rugged canyon of the South Yuba River, and the Independence Trail - the first identified wheelchair-accessible wilderness trail in the country. Unfortunately, the Jones Fire of September 2020 ripped through this area burning much of the Independence Trail and is closed until further notice.

Visitors can view swift moving water carving the granitic canyon that is peppered with seasonal native blooms in springtime, and experience refreshing swimming holes. Along the length of the park, visitors can see several architecturally different bridges spanning from the Gold Rush era to the mid-20th century.

Thank you to our partner, South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) for being a leader in supporting the communities needs in state parks. You can learn more about South Yuba River Citizens League at their website,