Volunteers Brave the Snow in Yuba Headwaters

May 10th, 2017

Since 2000, Yuba River Waterkeeper volunteers have been studying the condition of the Yuba River watershed to help protect and restore it. Over 40 volunteers are trained in water quality sampling and trek throughout 35 stations in the watershed for monthly sampling sessions. Participants range from high school students to senior citizens, who dedicate nine months of their time and energy to the river.

With these beautiful sunny days it’s hard to imagine that the Yuba headwaters are still socked in snow. Just a few weeks ago, many river monitoring sites were inaccessible. In the photo above, you can see citizen-scientist volunteer Kathy Scott supporting her husband, Vic, as he ventured in to sample the South Yuba River headwaters. Vic reported back on his  experience:

We all thoroughly enjoyed our first river monitoring day of the season. With the conditions being an unknown considering this year’s snow pack, the Langs Crossing team (Diane Virva) joined the Upper Castle Creek/Headwaters team (Dan Chaplin, Kathy & Vic Scott) in testing this month to ensure our safety. All went well, and no one fell in the river! We made sure we brought a sample pole, which we normally don’t need at the Headwaters, and a sturdy line for additional safety. Snowshoes were required at both Upper Castle Creek and the Headwaters and we all benefited from the exercise.

The usual testing position for Site 40, Upper Castle Creek, is directly under the railroad bridge near where Castle Creek enters Van Norden Meadow. We found the normal area under the bridge nearly full with snow forcing us to test a little ways upstream. The Headwaters site sported a 10+ foot wall of snow above the water. The pole was definitely a necessity and we barely reached the water to grab test samples.

Regularly monitoring water quality is a crucial part of identifying any existing problems, or any issues that could emerge in the future. Empirical evidence is gathered to guide good management decisions to protect our rivers and coastlines.  Although citizen scientists rely on a love for the river rather than a PhD, they follow a scientifically-credible Quality Assurance Program Plan approved by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.This ensures accurate data when measuring many water quality parameters such as water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, and conductivity.  Volunteers may also monitor for the presence of sensitive and invasive species, and occasionally test for bacteria, nutrients, and toxic metals.

Yuba River Waterkeeper’s river monitoring program is still looking for office and field volunteers. Want to explore the Yuba watershed while collecting valuable water quality data or help in the office for monitoring preparation? Contact Anna Schwyter, River Monitoring Coordinator, at or 530-265-5961 x213.

Categories: Waterkeepers at Work