Photo of Fordyce Creek, Nevada County, CA

Fishing Fordyce Creek

Nevada County

Photo of Fordyce Creek, Nevada County, CA

Fordyce Creek

Fordyce Creek runs from Fordyce Lake to Lake Spaulding in Nevada County. It lies only a few miles north of Interstate 80 near Cisco Grove in California's northern Sierra Nevada.

Fordyce Creek offers good fishing for rainbow and brook trout along its 9-mile length. An Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) route, which attracts a lot of 4-wheeler enthusiasts, runs from Indian Springs to Fordyce Lake. A spur trail from the OHV route cuts over to the Eagle Lake area and then connects to Fordyce Creek, making an easy 3-mile hike. I chose instead to approach from the lower end of Fordyce Creek by way of Lake Spaulding on a less well known trail, thus avoiding the 4-wheeler traffic. It's only a 2.5 mile hike. The trail starts at an elevation of 5,500' and drops a couple hundred feet to Lake Spaulding, making it a good early season outing.

In My Creel

  • Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear
  • Woolly Bugger
  • # 16 Bird's Nest
  • #8 Zug Bug
  • #16 Soft Hackle
  • Panther Martin

At Fordyce Creek, I used a lot of wet flies, but I also tried some casts with my spin casting outfit (with no luck).

Finding Your Way to Fordyce Creek

Photo of gate at trailhead to Fordyce Creek trail, Nevada County, CA

To reach the Fordyce Creek trailhead from Highway 80 west of Donner Summit, take the Highway 20 exit and follow it west 4 miles until you come to the turnoff to Bowman Lake. Follow this paved road 3.5 miles to a gated dirt road on your right (see picture, left). If you reach Fuller Lake you have gone a hundred yards too far. Park off the pavement downhill from the gate so as not to block the entrance. (Or park by Fuller Lake and walk back.)

The trail route to Fordyce Creek is tricky at first. It is shown on maps; but with so many side roads in the first mile, it is easy to get off track. Carry a good map, compass, or GPS. Also watch for snakes. I saw three on my last trip, one of them a rattlesnake.

Photo of sign pointing way to Spaulding Lake, Nevada County, CA

Start down the road which will lead you past the spillway from Fuller Lake. Stay as best you can on the main dirt road heading east. There are signs for Lake Spaulding which you want to follow, but they are often high in trees and difficult to spot.

The key turn in the trail is after half a mile when you first see the large water pipe to your right down an improbable looking trail. That's the way you go. Down and under the pipe. Once you have done that you are beyond the confusing part. The trail leads past another pipe and then views of Lake Spaulding open up on your right. Follow the trail as it joins the lake and winds along its north shore.

Photo of Spaulding Lake, Nevada County, CA

Lake Spaulding

Of course, you may want to do a little lake fishing along the way. I noticed that some maps don't show the trail continuing along the side of the lake to Fordyce Creek, but the trail is easy to follow. Once beyond the lake you will hear Fordyce Creek off through the trees (about mile 2.25).

You might be tempted to cut through the woods to Fordyce Creek here, but it's a difficult place to fish with lots of bushes and trees. I found the fishing much more rewarding less than a mile farther up the trail where I encountered a series of deep pools with fairly easy access.

Photo of Fordyce Creek, Nevada County, CA

Fordyce Creek

Accommodations and Supplies

Lodging is available at nearby Cisco Grove, Soda Springs, or Norden. You also could go over Donner Pass to Truckee where you will find a comfortable and reliable lodging. For more information about lodging, camping and recreation in the Donner Pass area, see Around Donner Summit

logo saying Around Donner Summit

Campsites can be found at Carr Lake, Lake Spaulding, Rucker Lake, and Lindsey Lake. I didn't see any established backpacking campsites along that section of Fordyce Creek. There were some back along the shores of Lake Spaulding, but none that were very attractive. If you approach Fordyce Creek from Eagle Lakes, you will find many nice backpacker campsites downstream from the bridge. Check at the Ranger Station for a fire permit. Late season regulations may prohibit any kind of fire or camp stove during high fire danger times.

California's Best Camping logo

To find the very best campgrounds in the area and all across California, visit California's Best Camping.

Recommended Books for Fishing Fordyce Creek


If you have someone to pick you up, you could make a one-way trip, either by starting at Eagle Lakes and exiting at Spaulding Lake or the other way around. It's about a 7½-mile hike with only a few hundred feet of elevation changes.

Photo of Fordyce Creek, Nevada County, CA

Fordyce Creek

Nearby Featured Trips in Nevada County