CALIFORNIA GEMS ~ The Yuba River, Coloma, & Pete DeLosa. by Ythsta Resovich

The Yuba River of northern California… we believe the name origin to be that of the Yu-Bah tribe of the Maidu Indians who once made these banks their home. Their Maidu kitchens (grinding stones) and carved artifacts tell of a rich and beautiful life on a river that was once filled “to the trees” with salmon during the annual migrations. This is the “something for everyone” river. Gentle class I/II boating to the places only the most daring play, she offers beauty at every curve.

The Yuba has it’s own protectors in the form of the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) offering lots of great programs designed to keep her as perfect as she is now and is constantly striving to help restore what has been lost. Protected since 2001 by the Wild and Scenic Status, she will remain as she is, perfect and pristine for all time to come. If you’re looking for a cool learning opportunity for yourself or a young person where you can combine boating and natural history this is a great place to start. All of these things bring us to the part you actually care about…the boating part.


From the Highway 20 Bridge put in to the park take out makes a great float most of the year, and a good place to start if you’re brand new to kayaking and want to just get the “feel” while still being able to enjoy what you are looking at. From mid September through the end of November you can watch the salmon spawning in this area, making it more than just a great float.

If floating is not your thing and you think you can keep up there’s this.


Four Miles, dropping at 65 fpm, is classic Class IV/V drop and pool: this is where the winter/spring water flows. Edwards Crossing to Purdon Crossing, if the shuttle doesn’t drive you crazy, is some of the best that this section of California has to offer. From Nevada City, California to the put in is approximately 7 miles, or at least that’s what the map says; it may be the longest 7 miles of your life. Having spent an hour playing rock hockey with the ever changing road surface, upchuck curves and the occasional game of chicken with the local wildlife… just about the time you start wondering if you are going to ever get there you arrive. What greets you makes the fact that your teeth hurt worth it. Stunningly beautiful is the only way to describe what greets you; graceful pines and granite with sweet sunny spots and cool shaded areas.


She’s Kickin is mint at about 1500 cfs. Below 1000 cfs it’s bony and above 2k things wash out and the water is fast, making the time of the run shorter than your shuttle, and nobody ever does it twice in the same day (the shuttle not the run) unless you have a good chiropractor. There’s some good surf waves downstream from the bridge and that small stretch has a convenient trail to do a little second and third run at it’s action.

So, I am at the point where I have to talk to a master (which I definitely am not) about what it is  that makes you keep beating yourself to death to get to this place. I am sitting here on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at Sierra Rising Bakery in Coloma, CA with Pete DeLosa. Pete is the guy you follow on a run you are sure you won’t make and end up doing just fine, who reads water better, faster and on the fly more than most, and is fearless in his style; oh and ladies, that easy smile and laughter that reaches clear to his eyes is the real deal. He consented to sit here, having just completed a quick bolt down the South Fork American this morning, to talk to me about his favorite river and why that’s so.


“The Yuba… It’s my favorite river to take students because there’s something for every level. Beginners find the II section below 20 to the park enough of a challenge to keep them interested. Intermediate people find that the Golden Cords and Washington to Edwards is a great place to get their skills in order. Then there’s the big boy’s club from Edwards to Purdon’s, a boofy California boulder garden, easy to access with a remote feel. Purdon’s to Bridgeport is serious Class V.”

I ask the obvious: what’s your favorite? “Well, I like it all,” he says with that kind of smile only a been-there-done-that boater has. First he looks at the sky for a moment and I can see him looking at the river in his mind, then gives these gems up. “From 49 to Bridgeport is the favorite, steep boulder garden classic Cali feel with paved logistics. The quality of the whitewater feels very remote, but reality is when you’re done you’re only about 30 minutes from food and beer. Eat the Meat is a straight forward ramp into a giant hole, you can roll at the bottom if you’re not in good control.” Pete says that he has a “fear of big holes” but I’m thinking that is his personal demon because he makes it look pretty easy for someone who claims fear. “Red Rooster starts with a ledge you boof off of sideways that’s about 100 yards long with big boulders, holes, and pour overs. You do some hopping to keep from smashing into the rocks. It’s a total package river with quality whitewater, clear and clean with blue skies and sunshine. A good water year can keep you excited through May. There are 6 to 10 ft high boofs. It’s like the stretch was designed by a kayaker, where there’s a nice little warm up, then these little breaks with a continuous feel. California kayakers are spoiled by the continuous sunshine and warmth!”


We spend some time laughing about my “lack of a roll” and the fact that I can wet exit so fast that I’m standing on the shore pointing at my boat before it’s even upright, saying “whose boat is that?” My lousy skills bring us to what he does best – Teach. I ask him how he got where he is and we talk about his hero. Pete shares the story of a man who came to his school and took kids out every day for almost no money, giving them another way to burn off that adolescent energy, and how he wants to bring that to the kids here.

He tells me that he started kayaking at 14 in a slalom boat, going 5 to 7 days a week in Spring Creek, PA. Every day after school Pete stayed in the river until the sun went down and going home was no longer not an option. He moved to Reno in 2008 for a girl, “she’s gone, but I’m still here,”  again with that smile. Pete started playboating at the whitewater park and fell in love with freestyle kayaking. He tried a bit of school and a bit of kayaking (Ok more kayak than college most days) and started exploring, and in 2009 he fell in love with the sleepy town of Coloma where we have water in the river year round. “I love living here. It’s great to realize that I can get to Cherry Creek in two hours, run the creek, and be home for dinner. I came for 3 months and was going to gypsy around somewhere, and discovered the joy of the Coloma valley…So here I am.”


Indeed he is. If you are so inclined and want to come and see what all the fuss is about, Pete is glad to take you out and show you, whether you need a few classes to tune up, or just want to play. Most any weekend year round he’s here, and the Yuba is just waiting to help you fall in love. As for Coloma? Well that’s another story for another day, but if any town can steal your heart, this one can.

Here’s Pete giving us a little South Yuba River Porn-

Or this one-

And finish off with this one-


The photos in this article are from Pete’s Instagram feed. You can follow Pete on his Facebook Page-

or catch his blog for his latest adventures. Take a look into the mind of a true Dirt Bag at



Please support SYRCL in their efforts to protect this river. It matters That you give and it matters Where you give. Make it count.


River Love






By Chicago Mike

Editor-in-Chief "Chicago" Mike Toughill is co-founder of Dirt Bag Paddlers and former Peshtigo River Manager at Kosir's Rapid Rafts in Wisconsin. He's been Wallacing since 2003.

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