Springtime Photography at the South Yuba River State Park (California, USA), Nevada County

Keeping up with my series of posts about photography destinations not too far from the greater Sacramento area, I remind my followers to check out the South Yuba River State Park. I consider it a hidden gem for photography, particularly in the spring. Parking is limited, and the light is harsh, so get there early to get a space and good light!

Location and Parking

The entrance to the South Yuba River State Park, park headquarters and visitors center are on Pleasants Valley Road, off Highway 20, North of Nevada City. The address is Bridgeport, 17660 Pleasant Valley Rd. The park can be accessed from Highway 20 west of Grass Valley, or from Highway 49 north of Nevada City.  From Sacramento, it is a 70-mile drive, mostly on highway 70N. As of now, parking is 5.00 U$ and can be paid with a credit-card. Always check the park’s official website before going. The region is prone to wildfires and things can change quickly.  

Wildflower photographers will really enjoy the South Yuba River State Park. There is a native plants garden near the visitor’s center. In the spring, wildflowers abound, and the slopes on both sides of the river, where the sun hits more consistently, become covered in lupines and poppies. Although I have not taken landscape photos including the flowers there, because a partly cloudy day never happened on my visits, a quick google search revealed many examples. Below, some photos of wildflowers taken by me there:

Photography tips 

A diffuser will come in handy for wildflower photography on a sunny day. Many flowers are on slopes, intermingled with grass. A flash might help to achieve separation by darkening the background, and a long macro lens is a plus and maybe a must.

When shooting macro wide open and without a tripod, take many photos of the same subject. The tiniest movement will change the focus point, and it may change it to somewhere you don’t want it. Taking several photos will ensure that at least one will be just like you envisioned. Also, to get a larger area in focus, try to keep the camera as parallel as possible to the main axis of your subject. For wildflower portraits, chose the ones that are relatively isolated from the vegetation, and pay attention to the background, which should not have anything bright shiny, for instance distracting rocks and sticks trying to steal the thunder.

A word of caution

There exists something known as a rattle snake. Rattle snakes are common along the riverbeds in California, they often lay on the rocks trying to warm up. When walking on rocks by the river, be aware of snakes. They can and will bite you if you step on them. Although the existence of snakes is no good reason to avoid the outdoors, it is a good reason to pay particularly close attention when hopping on rocky riverbeds. 


The park is about 20 minutes from Nevada City, a Victorian town which, in and on itself, is worth a photography trip. Nevada City has awesome beer, food, and interesting stores to visit.

Wildflower prints

If you like my wildflower work, I have a small portfolio with prints and merchandise for here in my pixels website.

Resources: This official site has additional and updated information about the South Yuba River State Park. 

Some information about the history of Bridgeport can be found here.


Wall Art Botanical Images

Wall Art Photography projects

Wall Art Wildflowers of California


12 thoughts on “Springtime Photography at the South Yuba River State Park (California, USA), Nevada County

      1. Steve Schwartzman says:

        Our last visit to California was in 2016, and that was the first time in 20 years. It’s a beautiful state, so varied in geography and climate.

        Because I’ve shown lots of pictures of the native plants in central Texas, and mentioned some things about them, people often assume I know about plants in other regions, botany, gardening, etc. My knowledge is pretty limited; I never even took an introductory botany course. My connection to plants will always be as a photographer, and I think that’s true for you as well.


      2. Alessandra Chaves says:

        LOL I know what you mean. I am a biologist and my specialty is insects. Yet people ask me to identify plants, birds, mammals, they show me skin ailments and ask about their health conditions. Although we do have a broad learning of the living world, it is superficial at best. But… in your case, at least some invasive plants do occur throughout the country.


  1. shoreacres says:

    Your photos of the flowers are glorious, and the tips are useful. More often than I like, circumstances dictate mid-day photography with clear skies and bright sunlight — it can be a challenge, for sure. Add in pure white flowers and dappled light, and I can wear myself out in a hurry!

    I did learn about holding the sensor parallel to the subject when I was learning to photograph dragonflies, but often there are flowers with blooms on different planes.Sometimes I select one flower, and sometimes I try something like f/22, which helps. I did think about image stacking today. I was trying to photograph a tiny flower with basal leaves about the size of a dime, and a flower on a thready stalk about 3″ high. The flower itself was perhaps half the size of an English pea. Getting them both in focus just wasn’t working for me. If I’d thought about focus stacking yesterday, I would have tried for some similar images, and tried to learn the technique. But I did well enough to be able to show the plant, so I’ll keep it in mind for next time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alessandra Chaves says:

      I have a friend who does focus stacking in the field without a tripod. But I have not been very successful with the technique in the field. The problem with closing the lens to f/22 is that sometimes diffraction makes up for an image that is not as sharp and clear as I would like to and in that case, focus stacking is a better choice, because you take the stacks with the lens wide open.

      Liked by 1 person

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