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Merced River Canyon Hike – Part 1

How about a hike where you can walk along the designated Wild and Scenic Merced River, on an old railroad bed, explore the remains of an old mining settlement and see some wildflowers?

Where: Bureau of Land Management, Merced River Recreation Area
Distance: 7.5 Miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Range: 939′ – 1,246′
Date: March 5, 2013
Highlights: The Merced River, of course! Reflections, water roaring over rocks, calm pools and a cascade of waterfalls were all spotted along our hike.

We drove to Briceburg, which is where Highway 140 crosses the Merced River. We turned left at the stone building that is the BLM Information Center, stayed to the left, driving across the one lane suspension bridge. We continued down the dirt road that was well maintained on our trip, past McCabe Campground at 3.6 miles, to Railroad Flat Campground at 5 miles. We parked at the end of the road near where the gate crosses the bridge. There are restrooms at this campground but it was unanimous that these restrooms win the prize as the smelliest restrooms we have ever been to. Just a little warning.

We had easy flat walking along the trail which used to be the old Yosemite Valley Railroad tracks along the Merced River. Be on the watch for poison oak and rattlesnakes! Gail Gilbert took this picture of me at the trailhead.

Merced River Canyon2The headwaters of the Merced River originate in the high country of Yosemite National Park and ultimately flow into McClure Reservoir, but not before winding their way through the canyons where we hiked. In 1987, the Federal Government designated 122 miles of the Merced River as a “Wild and Scenic” river. The trail follows the gentle grade of where the old Yosemite Valley Railroad tracks used to be and where we saw the remains of old bridges, dams, flumes, rock walls, ditches and what was left of old mining structures.

The waters were still and peaceful, full of reflections, when we started our hike.

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Toyon, with its bright red berries were along the trail.

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Does this beach look inviting?

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The young poison oak leaves were glistening and tinged in red.

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We saw wildflowers such as this purple Blue Dick, with young poison oak leaves behind it.

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The National Weather Service had predicted that rain would start in the afternoon so we packed our raingear and kept a close watch on the skies. We didn’t need the raingear after all.

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Redbud wasn’t quite blooming yet but so very close.

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Remains of the buttress for a bridge that once crossed the North Fork is dated August 26, 1940., and made for a great lunch spot on our way back.

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After hiking about 2.5 miles, the trail started up along the North Fork. We hadn’t traveled too far when we came across a most unusual structure that looked like remains of an old rock wall for a structure. Someone had thrown brush trimmings and slash into the center and it wasn’t until I got home and Googled a little on it did I discover that there was a large boulder in it that acts as a roof on an underground chamber.

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As we headed upstream on the trail, this side of the hill was more protected form the sun and we were treated to cracks in the rocks that housed micro climates for ferns and succulents.

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4 comments

  1. My husband and I walked from the gate to Bagby bridge, 8 miles. It was great. This is what the Merced Irrigation District wants to flood so they can have more water for fountains and swimming pools and houses. Sure isn’t for crops because those are quickly being eliminated for development…LEAVE MY RIVER CANYON ALONE.

  2. why WERE the flumes built AND FOR WHO AND WHEN ???

  3. found answer. flumes built for the mountaion king mine in 1917 seven men died in the mine because the flume broke and it powered the motivers?? airaters for the mine the men died of gas suffocation

  4. Robert Grant, thank you so much for your research and answer that you provided on this.

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