Wards Ferry Bridge Swimming Hole Tuolumne River

An out of the way place to swim and fish, as well as boat and picnic as long as you don’t mind carrying your equipment a little ways, is at Wards Ferry Bridge which spans the Tuolumne River just above Don Pedro Reservoir, in between Groveland and Sonora.

Wards Ferry Road, with its tight turns and sheer drops, a narrow mountain shelf of a road that zigzags down into the steep canyon of Deer Creek, crosses the Tuolumne River and climbs up and out the other side improving only somewhat the early trail that connected Sonora with Big Oak Flat and Groveland.

The Wards Ferry road begins at the apex of the “Deer Flat Loop” and is reached from the western end of Groveland by way of the Groveland-Deer Flat road, or from the indicated Wards Ferry turnoff in the eastern outskirts of Big Oak Flat.

The road climbs precariously to the sides of the steep Deer Creek gorge on a narrow shelf high above the slender creek, overlooking tops of trees that grip the canyon wall below. Descending rapidly, turning to switch back at a lower level, you come to the bottom and cross Deer Creek on a slender bridge at the end of the canyon. There is space to park here, and it is a cool, forested spot to rest.

Within a mile you approach the waters of the Tuolumne River and upper reaches of Don Pedro Reservoir, a rounding curve of the road brings you to the high bridge. It was here, just a few hundred yards above the junction of Deer Creek with the Tuolumne River that, in 1850, Joseph Ward built a sturdy ferry of hand cut logs and operated it himself. Footmen paid 25 cents to cross, horsemen – 50 cents.

The present structure that spans the upper reaches of Don Pedro Reservoir was constructed in the early 1970’s. The old abutments are still visible up river from the new bridge. When the lake is at its highest levels, all vestige of the old bridge near the site of the original ferry that Ward built, is hidden by the waters.

The Wards Ferry Bridge is the "pull out" point for white water rafters on the Tuolumne River.

On the Sonora side of the bridge the road climbs over 1000 feet in the few miles before the junction of the Jamestown-Algerine Road. The scenery is bucolic on the way. you pass the turn offs to Tuolumne and Standard before reaching Sonora

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Latitude: 37.8764455 Longitude: -120.2954865 Elevation: 815 ft

Recreational Opportunities

Swimming and Fishing, Picnicking, and Boating if your craft is portable.

Seasons Accessible

All year round




I like it, but the road in is very dangerous. Watch for rocks, cars, and bikes. If you head about 200 yards up river there are a number of old cars that fell off the top of the cliff. The lower the water level the more cars you can see.

John Bell, 3/11/2014

Took this route after visiting Yosemite. Was told it’s a good short cut to Twain Harte NOT! The road is extremely dangerous, narrow-7ft and very steep, no guard rails-with sheer cliffs to bottom of gorge, too many blind turns, no room to even pull over for on coming traffic (lucky we saw none) we drove small Subaru Outback. I've driven steep mountain roads throughout Northern California for 30 years I've never seen anything this dangerous.

Anderson , 2/4/2016

What a fun, fun road to ride on a motorcycle. It's not the kind of road you want to drive or ride if you need all the safety nannies, but if you're down for a challenge, it's a blast to ride with great views.

steve, 6/20/2016

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