Yuba River Scuttle – Emerald Pools to Washington City, CA

There is an adventure that I had been thinking of doing for a long time, but had never actually done.

I call this adventure the Yuba River Scuttle.

It goes from the Emerald Pools in Northern California to a little town called Washington City, CA. I’m not aware of anyone who has done this. Before we did it, I had never heard of anyone else doing it.

What is a River Scuttle

Nevada County, California, USA: Yuba River
Yuba River – Taken in 2011

A river scuttle is a journey in which you carry nothing but a waterproof bag. The scuttler carries that bag on their arm or shoulder. They use it as a floating device when swimming through challenging spots.

The idea is that you are 100% prepared to be aquatic. You are carrying everything you need to camp for a day or two in a waterproof bag. I’m guessing that it’s an 11 mile trip based on the calculation below.

Emerald Pools to Washington City, California
My rough estimate is 10.95 miles worth of river scuttling. The start is on the right. The end where the red marker is.

Waterproof bags will need to have space for warm cloths, a hammock, some food and a bit of water. I’m guessing this is a 2 day trip.

River Scuttle Statistics

  • Start altitude of 4,500 feet at the Emerald Pools
  • End altitude of 2,589 feet in Washington City, CA
  • Altitude change of 1,911 feet
  • Descent rate of 174 feet per mile

The elevation drop is about the same as the height of the second tallest building in the world.

We are started on Saturday afternoon at 5:00 p.m.

More River Scuttle Maps

The above map is a line drawn using an elevation mapping tool. The bar chart below represents the elevation change related to the image above marked with the red line.

North Fork of Yuba River Large Sized Topography Map

Notes on the Adventure

The Yuba River Scuttle is challenging.

Everyone in our group was enthusiastically athletic. Despite that, we were all exhausted by the end of the adventure. Our feet were sore, the bags became heavier, and the river started feeling colder. People started making mistakes that led to uncontrolled slides. It was getting dangerous.

River scuttling is extremely slow. I’d guess we cover between .15 and .25 miles an hour. Swimming is slow. Rock climbing is slower. My estimate of eleven miles in 2 days was misguided at best.

Yuba river scuttling is also uncomfortably cold. In August, when the river is at it’s lowest and the day is at it’s hottest, the cold water takes the scuttler’s breath away.

There is a road that runs along the river for the last 4-5 miles. If it weren’t for that road, we would have had to camp another night on the river.
Camping on the river is very cold. The hammocks are not great for keeping a person warm. V said something of note, “I’m never sleeping in a hammock again.”

The river is stunningly beautiful. Over and over the beauty of the river astonished us. Towards the end, I would come upon another beautiful waterfall and think to myself, ‘Ugh, do we have to swim it?’

The journey was a constant process of problem-solving. There is a new beautiful waterfall cavern. How are we getting around it? Phew, I don’t want to swim in the shadows. Can we make the climb to get around it? That kind of thing was the name of the game.

It was genuinely fun. It was awful challenging. It was legitimately dangerous. If I were to do it again, I would give myself 3-4 days.

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