Buttermilk Bend, Monday, 2/13/17

Looky here, the sun is shining!  What an invitation to be Out and About, soaking in all the Vitamin D we can, and checking out the still raging South Yuba River at the same time. Jimmy and I wanted to hike the Buttermilk Bend Trail this afternoon, though it's too early in the year for wildflowers, mainly so we could see what this river looks like in spate.

While we've had no rain for a few days, NorCal received so MUCH rain, water is still leaching out of every hillside.  The last three-day storm was a "pineapple express" that brought rain rather than snow to the high mountains, resulting in snowmelt ... and lots more water flowing into all the rivers, including this one.

So, what we're seeing today is not how this river looked a few days ago.  Imagine twice as much water gushing over boulders!  We guessed the So Yuba had already dropped maybe five feet.  In times past when we've visited, the water below the old covered bridge (at Bridgeport, in So Yuba River State Park), has been a mere trickle.  At the height of the flood, the water crested just below the bridge!

Jimmy is standing next to one of two large downed trees, this one a pine (the other was oak).  The pine cone he's holding was like a medieval weapon, heavy and sharp!  Both trees had to be removed from the trail.

The watercourse drops significantly through the steep-sided canyon, so the water plunges downhill like mad.  If you've ever been to Niagara Falls and stood next to those violent rapids that precede the actual falls, you've heard the roar wildwater makes.  That's what we heard from the So Yuba today! 

Jimmy and I view water differently than other people, perhaps.  We look at it from a kayaker's point of view, as in, "no way we could navigate that stretch," or (me) "Nope, I'd die."  In a river full of boulders the size of boxcars or small houses, we point out sections (with a jaundiced eye) that are a-jumble with whitewater.  Jimmy says it can be done with a small kayak -- and a brave body -- as a small kayak rockets through the water, almost skimming the top.  Hah, don't forget the helmet!  No thanks, not even if I was 25 would I try it.  

We spotted rivulets and cascades we never knew existed, and those we have seen before dribbling down a hill, were just that.  But, not today!  Water will find a way down and out, even if it has to make its own (or new) channel.  We all know this.

One wildflower had popped out, endemic Hansen's Larkspur (Delphinium hansenii).
A tiny bright spot in the wet, green landscape.

The last time we saw French Corral Creek (which dumps into the So Yuba), we could walk across it.  In fact, two years ago when we hiked the trail with Matt and his two doggies, it was almost dry.  Please check out the link above to see the differences!

Today, an American Dipper (or water ouzel) was working the creek.

The South Yuba is agitatin' like a loaded washing machine!
But she shines like polished pewter.

Another nifty cascade.

Most of the 2.5 R/T trail is high above the river, with steep side trails leading down to the water.  The trail is relatively flat and wheelchair accessible, albeit a bit muddy in a couple of areas today.

In this day and age of erratic and turbulent weather, flooding isn't uncommon.  My sister knows about this.  What is shocking to us is flooding HERE, where we live, as we've only known drought since moving to NorCal.  I guess we should all be prepared for more crazy and potentially damaging weather ahead, compliments of global warming.  Really, it's not an alternative fact!

Never noticed this drain pipe underfoot here, 'cause it's always been empty.

Jimmy stepped out onto the overhanging rock next to the trail.  Look at the river below, especially the distant bank.  Where the granite is light-colored above its current waterline, is the high point of the water.  A light film of clouds obscured the sun as we wound up our hike, maybe preparatory to incoming rain on Thursday?

As we were approaching Smartie, we looked up to see this powerful sun dog!

Now, on Wednesday, we heard late yesterday that the mandatory evacuation order of communities below Oroville Dam was rescinded.  Residents could go home, but we learned that only about half the people in our local fairgrounds elected to leave, fearing they might have to pack it up and return if ....

Jimmy and I plan to get in one more nice hike before the sky opens up again.  And possibly we'll return to Buttermilk Bend trail when the storm's over to check out the river one more time.


  1. Saw this post when we got home from a walk around the lake. Nice high lake level, and violets are just starting to bloom (groundcover). So nice! All cloudy here now, but yesterday was nothing but blue sky. We picked up our new-to-us car on Monday - yesterday Sydney and I picked up our mom and aunt and took a lovely drive over to Coloma State Park with the huge, panoramic sunroof open. They LOVED getting out in the sunshine, and so did I! Not looking to the next series of storms.

  2. Great views of the river. I would be very happy not to be on the river now:)

  3. That river sure loos scary in full spate.....

    1. ... and this was after the water level had dropped. In full spate, the South Yuba was crazy wild, and REALLY scary.


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