"This short hike follows a dry mining ditch high above the South Yuba River, the most exhilarating stretches clinging to the canyon wall on rebuilt flumes. The Independence Trail is the first path through a roadless area in the United States built expressly for wheelchairs. Of all the works left by the miners, few are more dramatic than the ditches and flumes built to transport water to power hydraulic mining operations or stamp mills. Hung precipitously from canyon walls, the most magnificent of these waterworks rounded mountainsides like reckless juggernauts, rushing in and out of steep ravines, leaping over gorges on wooden flumes, bearing river waters hundreds of feet above their natural channels. The Independence Trail follows just such a canal, the Excelsior Ditch, built in 1856 to transport South Yuba River water 25 miles to the hydraulic monitors at Smartsville." Read more
"This classic Gold Country hike combines an exciting crossing of a boardwalk, suspended on cliffs and elevated on tall trestles, with a deep gorge, plunging waterfalls, and one of the largest rivers in the northern Sierra Nevada. South Yuba River State Park’s Independence Trail is billed as the nation’s first wheelchair-accessible wilderness trail. Both the state park and the trail were made possible by years of tireless effort by noted naturalist John Olmsted, who was responsible for numerous state parks around California. The Independence Trail has eastern and western sections, divided by CA 49. Both offer wheelchair- accessible sections, fascinating history, impressive trail engineering, and beautiful scenery. However, the western half can also be combined with other trails to form a great loop." Read more
"From the trailhead to a perch overlooking Hoyt Crossing in 2.3 canyon miles, including 11 flumes, this short trail in the former Excelsior Ditch offers a glimpse into the engineering methods and challenges of 19th-century gold miners. The beautiful canyon views in a foothill-woodland habitat zone are worth the trip as well." Read more
"Just 10 minutes from Nevada City, this pleasant hike makes use of the first wheelchairaccessible wilderness trail in the United States. The builders created the path from the remains of an abandoned mining and irrigation canal originally built in 1854. The level grade makes it ideal for hikers of all ages and abilities. Interpretive and identifying signs highlight the diversity of flora along the trail. A sharp eye will spot a California newt among the trail duff (and the sharp hiker won’t touch it—the amphibian’s slimy coating is toxic). The cascades at Rush Creek, which has a superior ramp-access system, is the glamour spot on this route." Read more
"Mountainsides in the Sierra Nevada are webbed with hundreds of miles of flume— wooden or earthen channels built in the late 1800s and early 1900s to move water from rivers and streams to mining and logging camps.
The slopes of the channels were gentle enough to control water flows, and paths ran alongside so that miners and loggers could maintain the structures and, in the case of those built to transport lumber, clear logjams." Read more