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

I drove 20 years and this is the most dangerous road. do not try it unless you really want to, on lane and not possible to backup on turns. GPS lead me to this road. the bridge is pretty.

wanchun wang, 4/15/2017

It is very dangerous road that is set on traveling gps especially with family it’s over 8 miles of steep and sharp blind turns only enough space for one vehicle and no space for two cars this is only a one way road no signs posted this is a death trap been driving for over 40 years this is the worst road I ever driven on in my lifetime .

Angela, 5/17/2017

This is a dangerous route from Yosemite to Columbia, CA that was mapped by my iPhone. There are no official road signs indicating the danger, just a one lane road indication. I have driven icy mountainous roads in Virginia and this beats all of them. Thank god it was during the day and during dry weather. It was no less than driving on the edge if a cliff at times with blind corners.

Tom Yatabe, 7/18/2017

My iPhone led me to this road last night as I was trying to get to Groveland from Sonora. Not knowing the area at all, I automatically pressed "fastest route". I was never more terrified in my life, as I drove at midnight on the one lane, bumpy, graffiti covered one lane road that went deeper and deeper into nowhere, with sharp turns and narrow bridges. My phone kept saying I had 25 minutes to go after driving half an hour. I was too afraid to turn back for lack of gas, and too afraid to go forward. At one point I went off the gps and it kept saying to go back to the route. I am writing to maps to tell them to take this road off the system.

chris, 8/6/2017

On our way to Yosemite - Big Yellow Sign -> Warning.... Steep Grades.... One Lane Road.... No Turnarounds..... Driving from Sonora to Groveland, I am sure there are a number of options. Highway 120 is one way, apparently Ward's Ferry Road is another. Google Maps said to go on Ward's Ferry Road, so naturally we did... We started our 70 minute trek at 8:00pm. We didn't see most of this, but we did see enough at the beginning to know we were in trouble and there was no turning back. The graffiti-ed bridge at the bottom was really cool. Thank goodness for the internet, because we are NOT going back to get the pictures we really wanted to have. At that point, the only thing that was on my mind was that we needed to get back up the mountain. I am not sure which was better, going up or down. Actually they are both NOT GOOD. It is described as a mountain shelf road. Most portions of the road once you started to go down were 10 feet wide. I thought it looked like a slightly wider bike path. By the way, looking in hindsight, Highway 120 was 24 miles in 33 minutes, our Ward's Ferry Road was 19 miles in 70 minutes. ~6.8 miles of that took 45 minutes.

doug, 8/19/2017

My iPhone gps took me down this "road". I’d hardly call it that. By the time my wife and I realized what a mistake we had made it was too late. The scenery was beautiful too bad we couldn't enjoy it. There is literally nothing you can do if you come across another car, glad we didn't. When we finally made it to groveland we stoped for food and were talking to some locals and they avoid it. The road needs to be closed down and only open to non motorized vehicles. It's nothing more than a glorified bike trail. Would not recommend.

Bronson 10-2017, 10/23/2017

Stop relying on your GPS! Old country road. Used for bike racing. Narrow and follows the hillside. Stay away unless you live there. Get a good road map book with color coding, like a truckers map. This road would be designated as non usable for big rigs. That would be your first clue. Second would be that on your GPS map this road is so hairpin thin you must zoom in just to see the name. Don't blame the GPS when you don't bother to think.

Panda Camper, 5/11/2018

This was a frightful drive through an otherwise beautiful location. There were no warning signs. The road is barely wide enough for one car. Thankfully, the only time we passed anyone, it was a motorcycle. We have driven through many mountain roads over the years with many hairpin and scary turns. This was by far the most dangerous by far. Do not drive this road unless you have a deathwish.

Reenie, 6/29/2018

We are tourists from country Australia who have driven many dodgy roads. It is always good to return home with a horror story, perhaps a little embellished. We beg that Wards Ferry Road will be our story as we have severe doubts that we may not survive an uglier test. And will definitely be changing the settings on our GPS.

Sue & Michael, 6/30/2018

Drove this road by accident and it was a nightmare well described by the other comments . I said I wouldn't go that way again but some time later I did this time with the GPS saying go that way when I realized it was the same road it was too late the nightmare began again all I kept thinking was it would be so easy to go over the edge thank God nothing came the opposite way both times avoid this road like the plague

Malcolm Scouser , 7/20/2018

Stupid GPS led me to this nightmare. I was terrified. The breaks in my car were bad. Thankgod i made it out alive.

Mb, 7/29/2018

I love this Road. I enjoy the awesome views of the Tuolumne River and it’s Canyon from above. Take it slowly and watch for oncoming traffic on the curves. Very whimsical and memorable route between Groveland & Sonora. Thankful for the blessing to be on this scenic road!

LaVonne, 8/25/2018

If only I had checked this page before getting on this road based on Google map & GPS! We were lucky that no vehicle came from the opposite direction. After driving for almost an hour, I was elated to finally see a road that had lane dividers marked in yellow. This is the most dangerous road I have ever driven on, be it in US, Europe, Australia or India. There should be markings at the entry points to make drivers aware of the challenges on this road.

Subhajit, 12/12/2018

For all of you saying what a nightmare it is. We pulled a trailer on this. It was too late to turn around. We did ok except thought we would never make the 90 degree turn on and off the bridge at the bottom. My husband said he considered unhooking the trailer and saying it came unhooked. Definitely needs better signage. Hopefully that is the stupidest thing in our lives behind us.

Lorie, 3/17/2019

My husband and I wanted to check out the graffiti bridge while on a Sunday drive. He remember going there years ago, but somehow didn’t remember the road from hell. We came up from Modesto and followed the GPS (bad mistake, I never learn) that took us through Jamestown. The drive up on Algerine road was beautiful, especially being late spring. As we turned off of Algerine, we had no idea what the f@&$ we were in for! We made it to somewhat of a turn around on this death trap and I convinced my husband (who was having a bit of a panic attack) to let me switch seats and drive back up this hell forsaken road and get us out of there! Never did make it to the bridge, but we got off that road with our lives! Usually these kinds of roads don’t scare me, but damn if I wasn’t glad to be back in the valley smog!

SJ Zuidervaart , 5/9/2019

We use to use this in the morning in our logging trucks..not that big a deal

Chris, 5/14/2019

Is it one way? If one way, its okay. If both ways, what exactly is the expectation?

nm, 6/17/2019

We drove this road from Groveland to Sonora fairly late at night, starting around 10 p.m. We loved it! Yes it is steep, one lane etc. But we drove slow, and saw a ton of nocturnal wildlife. We have driven the opposite direction during the day, and saw beautiful wildflowers. The Legend Tripping bridge amazing! Go on this road if you plan it, and not with rvs, trailers, etc.

Jaz, 8/18/2019

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