Horseback riding at Spenceville State Wildlife Area, September 2008. Photo by queerbychoice. The Spenceville State Wildlife Area is 11,887 acres of state-protected blue oak woodland. Two thirds of it are in Yuba County, and the remaining third is in Nevada County. The Spenceville State Wildlife Area is bordered on the west by Beale Air Force Base and on the north, south, and east by privately owned ranches. It stretches from near Smartsville in the north to Camp Far West near Wheatland in the south.

The land varies in elevation from approximately 215 feet to 1,100 feet, and contains Fairy Falls, as well as many smaller waterfalls, creeks, and ponds. It is composed of a shallow clay soil underlain by serpentine bedrock from the Smartville ophiolite. The Foothill Copper Belt, which extends along the western foothills from Shasta County to Fresno, intersects the wildlife area and was mined from the 1850s until 1915, supporting the former town of Spenceville. Coal was also mined, as a byproduct of the copper extraction. The abandoned copper mine was declared a "toxic pit" in 1989, but an environmental cleanup has taken place since then. Pieces of the mine can still be seen in the wildlife area.

The plant life is dominated by blue oaks and gray pines, and contains many other native plants typical of blue oak woodand, including scarlet monkeyflower and, unfortunately, poison oak. Many of the native amphibians, birds, fish, insects, mammals, and reptiles of the Yuba-Sutter area live there. Birds that can be seen there all year long include the Western bluebird, bushtit, lesser goldfinch, Cooper's hawk, red-shouldered hawk, Anna's hummingbird, yellow-billed magpie, Western meadowlark, white-breasted nuthatch, Western screech owl, lark sparrow, rufous-crowned sparrow, oak titmouse, wild turkey, Hutton's vireo, acorn woodpecker, and Bewick's wren.1

Camping, bicycling, horseback riding, fishing, hiking, archery, target shooting, hunting, and hunting dog training are all allowed within designated areas and times of year. Beware of poison oak, rattlesnakes, and ticks.



Remnants of a bridge at Spenceville State Wildlife Area, September 2008. Photo by queerbychoice.

Main Roads

Trip Reports


See more: Hiking Trails in Yuba & Sutter Counties


2011-01-01 15:36:35   Hiking trails at Spenceville Wildlife Area are best on a cool day in fall, winter or spring. —BruceThomas


1. Birding Northern California: 81 Prime Birding Locations; Almost 300 Sites by John Kemper. Falcon, 1999