Swimming Pools in Merced County area

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Swimming Pools

Community swimming pools are located throughout Merced County.  Programs include swimming lessons, recreational swimming, and pool rentals. 

A variety of local swim leagues provides the opportunity for youth to improve their swim skills and compete in swim meets.  Scroll down to explore the possibilities.

  • Atwater - (209) 357-6320

  • Delhi - (209) 656-2000

  • Dos Palos - (209) - 392-2178

  • Gustine -  (209) 854-6471

  • Hilmar - (209) 667-6947

  • Livingston - (209) 394-8830

  • Los Banos - (209) 826-3801

  • Merced - (209) 385-6978

  • Local Swim Leagues

Swimming is also possible at the following reservoirs, state, and county parks

Atwater

Recreational swimming is offered Monday through Friday from 1 to 4 PM and Saturday from 12 to 4 PM.  Swim lessons for children are also available.

Location:  2201 Fruitland Avenue, Atwater, CA 95301

For current information, including swim lesson schedules, call Atwater’s Department of Parks and Community Services at (209) 357-6320.

We are offering 3 sessions: June 12 thru June 23, July 3 thru July 14 and July 17 thru July 28. We offer: 11am, 12am, 1pm,3pm, 4pm, 5pm, and 6pm classes each class is for one hour a day Monday thru Friday. Each session cost $45 per child.

Delhi

Located at Delhi High School, the Delhi pool offers recreational swimming, family swim nights, and swim lessons during the summer months.  During the summer of 2016, the pool will be open from June 28th through August 6th.  

Swim hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 12 to 4 PM.  Admission is $1.  A special family swim night is offered every Friday, with the pool open from 5 to 7:45 PM.  Admission on family swim nights is $0.75 per person.

Location:  Delhi High School, 16881 W. Schendel Road, Delhi.

For more information, contact the Delhi Unified School District at (209) 656-2000.

Dos Palos

The pool at Dos Palos High School offers swimming lessons and recreational swim hours during the summer months.

Recreational swim hours:  12-4PM M-F, $1/person

Adult lap swim:  7-8:30PM, $1/person

Location:  Dos Palos High School, corner of Mabel Avenue and Palo Alto Street.

For current information call City of Dos Palos Parks and Recreation at 392-2178.

Gustine

The Gustine Aquatics Center at Henry Miller Park offers the following programs during the summer months:  water aerobics, open swim, night swim, and pool rental.

Location:  Henry Miller Park, corner of 3rd Ave. and 6th St., Gustine, CA

For more information call Gustine City Hall at (209) 854-6471.

The pool is open from 9 to 10 AM Monday through Thursday for adult lap swim.  Open swim is held Monday through Friday from 12 to 4 PM. 

NIght swim is offered on Tuesday andThursday nights form 6 to 8 PM.  Admission is $3/person or $2 for senior citizens. 

You can save money by paying in advance and for those who want to swim frequently, unlimited visit passes are available.  

Water aerobics and swim lessons are also offered - see the City of Gustine webpage for more information:  http://www.cityofgustine.com/newsView.aspx?nid=2963.

Hilmar

Located in the Hilmar Park, the pool offers swimming lessons, recreational swimming hours, water aerobics, and lap swimming.

Location:  Hilmar Park, corner of Lander Avenue and Falke Street.

Morning lap swim:  6:30-8 AM, Monday-Friday

Combined lap swim and water aerobics:  12-1 PM, Monday-Friday

Evening lap swim:  6:30-PM, MWF

Recreational swim:  1-4 PM Tuesday - Friday, 12-3 PM Saturday

Water boot camp:  7:30-8:30 PM, Tuesday and Thursday

Swim Lessons 4:30-6:30 PM Monday through Thursday in 2-week sessions

To sign up for swim lessons or for more information call the pool at 667-6947 between 1 and 4 PM on a weekday.

Livingston

The Livingston High School pool - 209-394-8830

FOR 2017 THE SWIMMING POOL IS CLOSED FOR CONSTRUCTION.

Location: 1617 Main Street, Livingston, CA 95334

For more information call Livingston City Hall at  209-394-8830.

Los Banos

 Swimming lessons and open swim hours are offered at the Los Banos County Park during the summer months.

Location:  1414 South 7th Street, Los Banos, CA 93635

For more information call the Los Banos School District at (209) 826-3801

Merced

The City of Merced operates city pools at

Ada Givens Park

McNamara Park

Stephen Leonard Park.

These pools are available to rent for private events.  Swim lessons are offered for children of all ages starting with a “parent and me” class for toddlers as young as six months. 

Merced College offers a variety of swim programs during the summer and throughout the year.

City of Merced Swim Lessons:  Four two-week sessions are offered from June through early August.  Five levels of instruction include:

  • Parent and Me (Ages 6 months to 3 years)
  • Tiny Tots 1: (Ages 3 to 5 years)
  • Tiny Tots 2 (Ages 4 to 6 years)
  • Beginner Prep: (Ages 6 to 10 years)
  • Stroke Technique: (Ages 7 years and up)

Call the city at 385-6978 for more information and current schedules.

City of Merced Recreational Swim Programs

The City of Merced offers swimming during the summer at McNamara Park, Golden Valley High School, and Merced High School.  

Swim lessons are offered for children of all ages starting with a “parent and me” class for toddlers as young as six months.  Merced College offers a variety of swim programs during the summer and throughout the year.

City of Merced Swim Lessons:  Three two-week sessions are offered from June through July.  For the summer of 2016, there are still some lessons available at MacNamara Park in the mornings.  Five levels of instruction include:

Parent and Me (Ages 6 months to 3 years)

Tiny Tots 1: (Ages 3 to 5 years)

Tiny Tots 2 (Ages 4 to 6 years)

Beginner Prep: (Ages 6 to 10 years)

Stroke Technique: (Ages 7 years and up)

Call the city at 385-6978 for more information, schedules, and to sign up.

City of Merced Recreational Swim Programs:  The Memorial Plunge at McNamara Park and the Golden Valley High School pool are available for recreational swimming on summer afternoons.

Recreational swim hours:

  • Golden Valley High School:  Saturday and Sunday, 3-6PM
  • MacNamara Park:  Thursday-Sunday, 3-6 PM

        The cost for admission  - please call. 

Youth under age 18 swim free on  Fridays at MacNamara Park.

City of Merced Pool Rentals:  

For more information, call the city at 385-6978.  

Rentals are available from May through August.

Location of City of Merced Pools:

Memorial Plunge at McNamara Park:  Corner of 11th and K Streets, Merced

Golden Valley High School Pool:  2121 E. Childs Ave., Merced, CA 95341

Merced High School Pool:  205 W. Olive Ave., Merced, CA 95348  

Map of city pools-(click here)

Merced College Pool:  Merced College’s Community Service Department provides recreation classes for all ages.  Programs for children include swimming lessons, diving lessons, and water polo.  

Adult recreational lap swimming is offered throughout the year.

Location:  North end of Stadium Lane near Parking Lot B1, Merced College campus

For more information  call (209) 384-6224.

Merced College Pool: Merced College’s Community Service Department provides recreation classes for all ages.  Programs for children include swimming lessons, diving lessons, and water polo.  Adult recreational lap swimming is offered throughout the year.

For more information go to: (Click Here)

or call (209) 384-6224.

Local Swim Leagues

The Merced County Swim League is made up of ten teams from Merced County and surrounding communities.  Merced is also home to the Merced Skimmers Swim Team, which practices regularly at Merced College. 

Skimmers offers youth programs and masters swimming for adults.

Contact Information

Merced Skimmers

 Atwater stingrays

Atwater stingrays

Hilmar Hammerheads

Contact:  Celeste Tremble  arnica19@hotmail.com

Los Banos Tigersharks

Website: http://www.lbtigersharks.org

Kiddieland in the Applegate Park next to the Merced Zoo

Kiddieland:  Fun for the whole family!

Kiddieland hours of operation

Kiddieland is open to the public on weekends from 1 pm to 5 pm, annually, usually from late March or early April through October with three exceptions; the park is closed Easter Sunday, Mothers Day and the weekend the Merced county fair is going on.

Plan a birthday party at Kiddieland

Kiddieland  can be reserved for Birthday Parties from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm on Saturday or Sunday.

Kiddieland offers six rides:

  • The now famous train ride
  • Car ride
  • Merry-Go-Round
  • Helicopters
  • Rocket Ships
  • Go-Gator Roller-coaster

Kiddieland also has a convenient snack bar available offering reasonably priced assortment of family favorites.

Bring your kids and grandkids

The whole family will enjoy Kiddieland in the Applegate Park next to the Merced Zoo.  Plan a visit and have fun at the Merced Zoo along with a picnic  in the Applegate Park.  

Kiddieland is operated by the Kiwanis Club of Greater Merced.  Click here for more information.

Merced County Parks

Lake Yosemite - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Merced County offers three large regional parks –

Hagaman

Henderson

and Lake Yosemite. 

Hagaman and Henderson are both situated on the Merced River. 

Lake Yosemite wraps around the southern side of a reservoir just outside the City of Merced. 

Henderson is my personal favorite with the nicest facilities and plenty of shade provided by tall trees.

Note:  pets are not allowed in Merced County Parks, but are welcome in California State Parks and at reservoirs operated by local irrigation districts and the Army Corps of Engineers.

County Park Resources:  

County Park Facility Rental Fees:  http://www.co.merced.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=761 

Frequently Asked Questions About County Parks:  http://www.co.merced.ca.us/FAQ.ASPx?QID=279 

County Park Rules:  http://www.co.merced.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=789 

Hagaman Park: 

Located on a bluff above the Merced River in northwestern Merced County, Hagaman Park is especially popular with residents of the west side of the county.  A large picnic area is available for rent.  Because of drownings, this area is not open to fishing and a fence runs along the bluff to discourage river access.  If you want to swim or fish in the Merced River, try Henderson County Park, George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area, or McConnell State Recreation Area.

Location:  19914 River Road, Stevinson, CA (Intersection of River Road and Highway 165)

Distance from Merced:  24 miles

Distance from Los Banos:  23 miles

Facilities and activities:

  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas and shelters
  • Playground
  • Fishing or boating?  No

Website:  http://www.co.merced.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=1410 

Nearby Parks:  Camping and picnic areas are available at George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area, McConnell State Recreation Area, and San Luis State Recreation Area.

Henderson Park: 

Stretched along the bank of the Merced River in eastern Merced County, Henderson Park is shaded by tall trees and further back from the road than the facilities at Hagaman County Park or George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area. 

Like McConnell State Recreation Area, it feels more distant and removed than it actually is.  The park is popular for picnicking, large gatherings, river recreation, and fishing.  Three rental facilities are available, including an indoor clubhouse with kitchen and fireplace.  

Location:  Merced Falls Road, 1 mile east of Snelling

Distance from Merced:  20 miles

Distance from Los Banos: 55 miles

Facilities and activities:

  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic/banquet facilities (indoor and outdoor) 
  • Swimming area
  • Playground
  • Softball diamond
  • Horseshoe pits
  • Dogs allowed?  No
  • Horses allowed?  No
  • Hunting allowed?  No
  • Fishing and boating:  Fishing for rainbow trout is popular along the river and small boats can be hand launched from a concrete ramp (vehicles are not permitted near the ramp).
  • Nearby Parks:  Camping is available at McConnell State Recreation Area, and Lake McClure and Lake McSwain.

 

Lake Yosemite: 

Only seven miles from the center of Merced, Lake Yosemite has long been a popular spot for picnics, family outings, group activities, fishing and boating.  It isn’t the largest lake in Merced County, but it is close to home and has extensive recreational facilities.  Most facilities are accessed from Lake Road, but a secondary fishing access point is located at the end of Old Lake Road.  Lake Yosemite’s water comes from the Merced River.  It is diverted into the Main Canal by the Crocker-Huffman Dam, halfway between Snelling and Merced Falls.

 

Location:  5714 Lake Road, Merced, CA 95340

Distance from Merced: 7 miles

Distance from Los Banos:  43 miles

Operating authority:  Merced County Parks and Recreation

Surface area of lake:  500 acres

Facilities and activities:

  • Boat ramp and marina
  • Concessions booth (summer weekends only)
  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic/banquet facilities (indoor and outdoor)
  • Camping area for youth groups
  • Swimming beach
  • Playground
  • Dogs allowed?  No
  • Horses allowed?  No
  • Fish species:  Bass, bluegill, and catfish.  Trout are stocked in the early spring, but don’t last through the summer because of water temperatures.

Rentals:  Non-motorized boats are available on summer weekends from the concession stand.

Website:  http://139.151.188.2/index.aspx?NID=769

Nearby parks:  The closest camping is available at McConnell State Recreation Area, and Lake McClure and Lake McSwain.

Recreation organizations:  The Lake Yosemite Sailing Association organizes sailboat events and races, maintains a docking area, and teaches sailboating skills. 

Membership is open to all who have an interest in sailing. 

Boat ownership is not required and new members can learn to sail by crewing on boats owned by other members.  The LYSA also offers a Sail Camp for youth aged 8 and up during the summer months.  http://www.lakeyosemitesailing.org/

State Parks and State Recreation Areas in Merced County

Los Banos Creek - Photo by adam blauert

Merced County boasts state parks and state recreation areas.  They provide river access, campgrounds, picnic facilities, swimming, boating, fishing, water recreation, OHV recreation, and trails for hikers, bikers and equestrians.  These parks include:

George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area

Great Valley Grasslands State Park

McConnell State Recreation Area

Pacheco State Park

San Luis State Recreation Area

Turlock Lake State Recreation Area


PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area:  This state park has a mile of river frontage and plenty of shade.  It’s proximity to the road and the poor condition of some of its facilities make it less favorable than some of the other parks on the river, but it still provides many excellent fishing opportunities.  Near the park is a historic bridge over the Merced River.  Built in 1910, it is now open only to pedestrians and bikers.  It provides nice views of the river.

Location:  4394 North Kelly Road, Hilmar, CA

  • Distance from Merced: 30 miles
  • Distance from Los Banos:  29 miles
  • Size:  46.5 acres
  • Facilities and activities:
  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Campgrounds/group campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas
  • Swimming area
  • Dogs allowed?  Yes
  • Horses allowed?  No
  • Hunting allowed?  No

Fishing or boating?  Fishing can be good at George J. Hatfield Recreation Area.  Rainbow trout and bass can be caught in the spring; catfish and perch throughout the year.  No boating ramp is provided, but it is possible to swim in the river or to launch a float tube or hand-carried boat.

Website:  http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=556

and http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/554/files/McConnellHatfield.pdf 

Nearby Parks:  Undeveloped Great Valley Grasslands State Park has a six mile hiking trail.


Great Valley Grasslands State Park:  This park preserves one of the few remaining examples of Central Valley grassland.  The primary attraction of this undeveloped park is a six mile loop trail along levee roads.  Along this route you can see, the San Joaquin River,  native bunchgrass prairie, and vernal pools.

Location:  The park’s entrance is on Highway 165 (Lander Ave) just south of Highway 140

Distance from Merced: 21 miles

Distance from Los Banos:  19 miles

  • Size: 2,700 acres
  • Facilities and Activities:
  • Hiking/biking trails
  • Wildlife viewing 
  • Dogs Allowed?  No
  • Horses Allowed?  No
  • Hunting Allowed?  No
  • Fishing or Boating?  No boat ramps are provided, but float tubes could be launched in the San Joaquin River.  Bass and catfish are the primary species caught in this area.

Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=559

and http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=25155 for trail description

Nearby Parks:  Camping and picnic areas are available at George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area, McConnell State Recreation Area, and San Luis State Recreation Area.  Picnic areas are also available at Hagaman County Park.


McConnell State Recreation Area:  Like the other Merced River Parks, McConnell has a lot of shade.  It’s also a bit more developed than Hatfield and further from the highway.  If I were to pick a Merced River park in the Valley to camp at, this would be it.  

Location:  8800 McConnell Road, Ballico, CA

Distance from Merced:  22 miles

Distance from Los Banos:  35 miles

  • Size:  74 acres
  • Facilities and activities:
  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Campgrounds/group campground with BBQ grills/fire rings, hot showers
  • Picnic areas with tables and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic area
  • Swimming area
  • Dogs allowed?  Yes
  • Horses allowed?  No
  • Hunting allowed?  No
  • Fishing or boating?  Fishing can be good at McConnell Recreation Area.  Rainbow trout and bass can be caught in the spring; catfish and perch throughout the year.  No boating ramp is provided, but it is possible to swim in the river or to launch a float tube or hand-carried boat.

Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=554 and http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/554/files/McConnellHatfield.pdf 

Nearby parks:  Undeveloped Great Valley Grasslands State Park has a six mile hiking trail.


Pacheco State Park:  This park preserves part of a large Mexican land grant given to the Pacheco family in 1843.  28 miles of trails are available for hiking, biking, and equestrian use.  Thousands of acres of gently rolling oak woodland produces spectacular wildflower displays in the spring.  The ruins of the Pacheco Adobe and a well-preserved line shack from Henry Miller’s ranching operation stand near the picnic area.

Location:  38787 Dinosaur Point Road, Hollister, CA.  Accessed from Highway 152.

Distance from Merced:  59 miles

Distance from Los Banos:  23 miles

  • Size: 6,890 acres
  • Facilities and Activities:
  • Chemical/flush restrooms
  • An equestrian campground is available for special events; other campgrounds are available at the adjacent San Luis State Recreation Area
  • Picnic areas with tables 
  • 28 miles of hiking/biking/equestrian trails
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Wildflower viewing
  • Dogs Allowed?  In picnic area, but not on trails
  • Horses Allowed?  Yes
  • Hunting Allowed?  No
  • Fishing or Boating?  No

Website:  http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=560 and http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/560/files/Pacheco.pdf.  See http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/560/files/PachecoTrailMap2006small.pdf for a trail guide.

Special Events:  Ranger-led wildflower hikes in the spring.  A kite flying day is also held annually.

Nearby Parks:  Camping is available at the adjacent San Luis State Recreation Area


 Photo by adam blauert

Photo by adam blauert

 

San Luis State Recreation Area

(San Luis Reservoir, O’Neill Forebay, Los Banos Creek Reservoir): 

The San Luis State Recreation Area is made up of three units.  San Luis Reservoir is the largest and is used primarily for fishing.  Part of both the California Aqueduct and the Central Valley irrigation projects, it is the largest off-stream reservoir in the United States.  At full capacity, it measures nine by five miles at its widest points.

The O’Neill Forebay, a smaller lake below the San Luis Dam, is open to all kinds of recreation and offers the best fishing in the area.  Although this area can be windy, the O’Neill Forebay is more sheltered than the San Luis Reservoir.  O’Neill Forebay is considered to be one of California’s premier fishing areas.  The State record striped bass was caught in O’Neill Forebay in 2008.  It measured 52.5 inches and weighed 70.6 lbs.

Los Banos Creek Reservoir, located a few miles to the south, receives much less visitation.  It is best-known for springtime ranger-led hikes along the creek in the spring.  With a 5mph speed limit, Los Banos Creek Reservoir is primarily enjoyed by anglers.  A shoreline trail is provided for fishing access.  

 

Location:  San Luis Reservoir and the O’Neill Forebay are located on Highway 152, a few miles west of I-5.  Additional access is available from State Highway 33.  Los Banos Creek Reservoir is located on Canyon Road, southwest of Los Banos and I-5.

Distance from Merced:

San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay:  48 miles

    Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  42 miles

Distance from Los Banos:

    San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay:  12 miles

    Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  6 miles

Operating authority:  California State Parks

Surface area of lake:  San Luis Reservoir 12,700 acres

O’Neill Forebay 2,250 acres

Los Banos Creek Reservoir 623 acres

Facilities and activities:

  • Boat ramp
  • Chemical/flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Visitor center
  • Campgrounds/group campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings, shelters, hot showers
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas and shelters
  • Swimming beach/area with showers
  • Dump station
  • Hiking trails (additional trails available in the adjacent Pacheco State Park)
  • Wildlife viewing areas
  • OHV recreation area (south side of Highway 152 at Jasper-Sears Road.  Novice-level trails for both green and red sticker vehicles are provided)
  • Dogs allowed?  Yes
  • Horses allowed?  Yes, and many equestrian trails are available at the adjacent Pacheco State Park.
  • Hunting allowed?  Yes

Fish species:

San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay:  bass, bluegill, crappie, perch, shad

Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  bass, bluegill, catfish, and crappie.  Trout are stocked in the early spring, but don’t last through the summer because of water temperatures.

Boat rentals:  No

Website:  http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=558 and http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/558/files/sanluisSRA.pdf 

Special events:  O’Neill Forebay hosts a Kids Fishing Day in the spring.  The popular Path of the Padres is a Ranger-led hike along Los Banos Creek that is offered from February through April.  Hikers enjoy a creekside walk through wildflowers and learn about the history, wildlife, and plant species of the area.

Nearby parks:  Pacheco State Park is adjacent to San Luis Recreation Area and offers hiking and equestrian trails.  Ranger-led wildflower hikes are offered in the spring.

The California Aqueduct Bikeway begins at San Luis Creek and goes 70 miles north to the Bethany Reservoir State Recreation Area with rest stops ten miles apart and chemical toilets.


 

Turlock Lake State Recreation Area:  Less than an hour from many points in Merced County, Turlock Lake large and easily accessible.

Location:  Lake Road (accessed from Highway 132) between Waterford and La Grange

Distance from Merced:  32 miles

Distance from Los Banos:  67 miles

Operating authority:  California State Parks

Surface area of lake:  3,500 acres

Facilities and activities:

  • Boat ramp
  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings, hot showers
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Swimming beach
  • Short hiking trails
  • Dogs allowed?  Yes
  • Horses allowed?  No
  • Hunting allowed?  No
  • Fish species: bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, trout
  • Boat rentals:  No

Website:  http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=555 and http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/555/files/TurlockBrochure1.pdf


 

Other Resources:

Fishing and Boating Resources at http://www.takemefishing.org/ 

Department of Fish and Game Regulations:  http://www.dfg.ca.gov/ 

Department of Boating and Waterways Regulations:  http://www.dbw.ca.gov/ 

Reservations for State, Federal, and Army Corps of Engineers Campgrounds:  http://www.reserveamerica.com


San Luis Reservoir Area

San-Luis-Reservoir-e1305509338734

 O’Neill Forebay, Los Banos Creek Reservoir-Part of both the California Aqueduct and the Central Valley irrigation projects.

San Luis Reservoir
San Luis Reservoir

San Luis State Recreation Area

San Luis Reservoir, O’Neill Forebay, Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  The San Luis San Luis Reservoir, O’Neill Forebay, Los Banos Creek Reservoir-Part of both the California Aqueduct and the Central Valley irrigation projects.

Three Units

State Recreation Area is made up of three units.  San Luis Reservoir is the largest and is used primarily for fishing.  Part of both the California Aqueduct and the Central Valley irrigation projects, it is the largest off-stream reservoir in the United States. 

At full capacity, it measures nine by five miles at its widest points.

O'Neill Forebay
O'Neill Forebay

O'Neill Forebay

The O’Neill Forebay, a smaller lake below the San Luis Dam, is open to all kinds of recreation and offers the best fishing in the area. 

Although this area can be windy, the O’Neill Forebay is more sheltered than the San Luis Reservoir.  O’Neill Forebay is considered to be one of California’s premier fishing areas.  

The State record striped bass was caught in O’Neill Forebay in 2008.  It measured 52.5 inches and weighed 70.6 lbs.

Los Banos Creek Reservoir

Located a few miles to the south, receives much less visitation.  It is best-known for springtime ranger-led hikes along the creek in the spring. 

With a 5mph speed limit, Los Banos Creek Reservoir is Los Banos Creek primarily enjoyed by anglers. 

A shoreline trail is provided for fishing access.

Los Banos Creek
Los Banos Creek

Location

  • San Luis Reservoir and the O’Neill Forebay are located on Highway 152, a few miles west of I-5.  Additional access is available from State Highway 33. 
  • Los Banos Creek Reservoir is located on Canyon Road, southwest of Los Banos and I-5.

Distance from Merced

  • San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay:  48 miles
  • Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  42 miles
  • Distance from Los Banos:
  • San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay:  12 miles
  • Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  6 miles
  • Operating authority:  California State Parks
  • Surface area of lake:  San Luis Reservoir 12,700 acres
  • O’Neill Forebay 2,250 acres
  • Los Banos Creek Reservoir 623 acres

Facilities and activities

  • Boat ramp
  • Chemical/flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Visitor center
  • Campgrounds/group campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings, shelters, hot showers
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas and shelters
  • Swimming beach/area with showers
  • Dump station
  • Hiking trails (additional trails available in the adjacent Pacheco State Park)
  • Wildlife viewing areas
  • OHV recreation area (south side of Highway 152 at Jasper-Sears Road.  Novice-level trails for both green and red sticker vehicles are provided)
  • Dogs allowed?  Yes
  • Horses allowed?  Yes, and many equestrian trails are available at the adjacent Pacheco State Park.
  • Hunting allowed?  Yes
  • Fish species:
  • San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay:  bass, bluegill, crappie, perch, shad
  • Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  bass, bluegill, catfish, and crappie.  Trout are stocked in the early spring, but don’t last through the summer because of water temperatures.
  • Boat rentals:  No

For More information and special events

Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=558

O’Neill Forebay hosts a Kids Fishing Day in the spring.  The popular Path of the Padres is a Ranger-led hike along Los Banos Creek that is offered from February through April.

Hikers enjoy a creekside walk through wildflowers and learn about the history, wildlife, and plant species of the area.

Nearby parks

Pacheco State Park is adjacent to San Luis Recreation Area and offers hiking and equestrian trails.  Ranger-led wildflower hikes are offered in the spring.

The California Aqueduct Bikeway begins at San Luis Creek and goes 70 miles north to the Bethany Reservoir State Recreation Area with rest stops ten miles apart and chemical toilets

San Luis Reservoir, O’Neill Forebay, Los Banos Creek Reservoir-Part of both the California Aqueduct and the Central Valley irrigation projects.

Fishing and Floating the Merced River

Below McSwain Dam

The Merced is our local river and it can be a great place to fish or float. Because access points aren’t well publicized, this page is an attempt to provide some information about them.

Starting in the high country of Yosemite National Park, the river flows westward for 145 miles before joining the San Joaquin near the town of Newman.  The following is a list of access points in Merced County starting at the western end of the river and working east towards Mariposa County.

Safety:

Fishing is generally a safe river recreation as long as you do not wade out into the river.Swimming, boating, and floating the river on rafts or tubes are more hazardous activities.They are not recommended except in designated swimming sites such as the Hatfield and McConnell State Recreation Areas.Do not venture out into the river unless you are a strong swimmer, you wear a life jacket, you are sober, and you have a first aid kit and plenty of emergency supplies.

If you’ve never floated a river before, find someone experienced to go with.

The river has several rapids and places where rafters and boaters may be swept into trees and vines.There are also places where the river splits into multiple channels and it can be difficult to choose the safest route.High water flow, especially in the spring and after storms, may make the river extremely dangerous.Mid to late summer is usually the safest time to go, but this is not always the case.

Rivers have dangerous underwater hazards that can snare and drown swimmers and boaters.Every year California’s rivers claim lives!Think carefully before getting in the river and observe any posted safety warnings.

Some of the best online information about floating the river can be found at:https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/5042/.

Access Points:

George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area: Located near the river’s confluence with the San Joaquin, this state park offers the last access point to the river.Camping, picnicking, fishing, wading, and swimming are all permitted.Located at 4394 North Kelly Road which is technically in the town of Hilmar, the closest population center and supplies is actually Newman.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

For more information go to http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=556.

A brochure that covers both Hatfield and McConnell State Recreation Areas can be downloaded at:

http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/554/files/McConnellHatfield.pdf

You can also call the park office at (209) 826-1197 for more information.

Hagaman Park/Highway 165:

The signs posted by Merced County at Hagaman Park tell visitors that they should stay out of the river, but the brochure produced by California State Parks to provide information about its two parks along the river (Hatfield and McConnell) lists it as one of the places you can take your raft or canoe out of the river if you are floating it.

The result is confusion.I don’t recommend Hagaman Park as a place to access the river, but if you are interested in doing so, contact Merced County Parks and Recreation first: (209) 385-7426.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

You can also find park information at http://www.co.merced.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=1410.

Hagaman Park is located at the intersection of Highway 165 (Lander Avenue) and River Road.Highway 165 crosses the river and all potential access points near the highway are marked “No Trespassing.”

McConnell State Recreation Area:

This state park offers camping, picnicking, and some of the best access for fishing, wading, and swimming on the lower river.Located off El Capitan Way at the end of McConnell Road, the closest population centers and supplies are Delhi and Livingston.

For more information, go to http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=554.

A brochure that covers both McConnell and Hatfield State Recreation Areas can be downloaded at:

http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/554/files/McConnellHatfield.pdf

You can also call the park office at (209) 394-7755 for more information. 

Bridges:

Highway 99 Bridge:All potential access points along the highway are marked “No Trespassing.”

Santa Fe Avenue Bridge: Like Highway 99, all potential access points along the highway are marked “No Trespassing.”

Oakdale Road Bridge:There’s plenty of parking near the bridge and you can walk across the original 1912 bridge (now only open to foot and bike traffic), but the potential river access points are signed “No Trespassing.”It’s clear that some people do access the river here, but you’re liable to citation for trespassing if you do. 

Highway 59 Bridge:  Although official signs at this location delineate the fishing regulations for this part of the river, the landowner has informed me that any access at this point will be considered trespassing.  Don’t access the river at this location."

Snelling Road Bridge:Like the Highway 59 Bridge, land on both sides is private, but access has been allowed from the corridor along the highway.If you access the river here, be aware of all posted signs which may limit access in the future.The bridge is located on Snelling Road, 0.7 miles south of the junction with Highway 59.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

Snelling:

I’ve talked to a lot of people who have fished the river at the end of 3rd Street in Snelling, but there are currently “No Trespassing” signs posted.If you visit, check the signs before you access the river.

This area is accessed by turning south on 3rd Street (near the Chevron gas station) and following the road for a short distance.It becomes a rough dirt road near the river.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

Henderson Park:

This county park is located 1 mile east of downtown Snelling on Merced Falls Road.It offers picnic areas, playgrounds, and plenty of river access.Signs warn visitors about the dangers of river access, but do not prohibit it.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

For more information go to http://www.co.merced.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=1454

or call (209) 385-7426.  This is one of the most picturesque spots on the lower river.  A $3/car entry fee is charged on weekends and holidays.

Other access points

First access point east of Snelling:  Set your odometer to zero at the intersection of 3rd Street and Highway 59 in Snelling.  Highway 59 becomes Merced Falls Road at the junction with County Highway J59.  The second access point to the river is 1.6 miles beyond 3rd Street and Highway 59.  After you pass the J59 junction and Henderson Park, look for the first yellow sign indicating a left curve.  There is a small parking area and a sign indicating fishing regulations on the right side of the road.

MID Cuneo Access:Located at mile 2.5, you will see a sign, a fenced gravel parking lot, and a restroom.  The river is a short walk from the parking area along a trail.This access point may be closed seasonally, even when fishing is allowed.

Access between Cuneo and Crocker Huffman:At mile 3.3 begins a series of parking areas along the bank of the river to mile 3.6.  The first one is located by an electrical pole and mailboxes for 5706 and 5996 Merced Falls Road.  The parking areas end across from a sign indicating the entrance to 5996 on the left side of the road.These areas have been “No Stopping Any Time,” since Summer 2014 due to litter and traffic problems.According to Merced County, you can stop briefly to drop off fishing gear or rafts, but then must move your vehicle beyond the signs.

MID is currently constructing a new parking and access area that should be opening just east of this access point.The estimated opening date is sometime later in 2015.

MID Crocker-Huffman Fishing Access:After a 40 mph curve, you’ll see a fenced gravel parking lot and a sign indicating MID ownership at mile 4.1.  If you pass A-1 Bait and Tackle, you’ve driven too far.  A hike of about ¼ mile from the parking area will take you to the dam.  Note that fishing regulations are different for the area above the dam and the area below.  Consult the DFG’s fishing regulations to make sure that you are in compliance.This access point may be closed seasonally, even when fishing is allowed.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

PG&E River’s Edge Fishing Access:This access point is 6.2 miles beyond Snelling, next to the PG&E hydroelectric plant.  This access point allows you to fish above the spillway of the Merced Falls Dam.  Note that swimming, float tubes, and boats are not allowed because of the proximity to the dam.

Hornitos Road Bridge Area:After Merced Falls Road turns sharply north, make a right turn on Hornitos Road.  Turn again when the road splits for Lakes McSwain and McClure (left) and Hornitos Road (right).  There are a number of places to park near the bridge.  This area is 6.4 miles from 3rd and Highway 59 in Snelling.  This is a popular place to fish from the shore or to launch float tubes or canoes.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

PG&E Lake McClure Road Access:7.2 miles east of Snelling on Lake McClure Road, a right hand turn just before you reach the entrance gate to Lake McSwain and Lake McClure Recreation Area leads to another PG&E access point directly below the Lake McSwain Dam.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

Mariposa County Access:

Beyond the McClure Road access point, the river is a part of Lakes McSwain and McClure. It becomes a free-flowing river again at the eastern end of Lake McClure where it is crossed by the Highway 49 Bridge.There is no road along the next 8.4 miles of the river.A very rough trail follows it (washed out on the Highway 49 side) but you can follow it cross-country on the northern side of the river until it becomes a true trail again.The eastern side of the trail is accessed from the end of the Briceburg Road.

There is no bridge across the confluence of the North Fork of the Merced, which can only be waded safely in low water conditions.The Briceburg Road follows the next 5 miles of the river beyond the trail up to where it joins Highway 140.From that point onwards, Highway 140 parallels the river closely into Yosemite National Park.

There are many views of the river from the road and many places to fish.Floating the river above Lake McClure is not recommended as there are many dangerous class III-IV rapids and a small waterfall near the confluence of the North Fork.

Rafting services

Several whitewater rafting companies offer guided trips to this area:

ARTA:Merced/Tuolumne - http://www.arta.org// (209) 962-7873

All-Outdoors California Whitewater:Merced/Tuolumne/Stanislaus/Cherry Creek - http://www.aorafting.com// (800) 247-2387

O.A.R.S.:Merced/Stanislaus/Tuolumne - http://www.oars.com/california/ (800) 346-6277

Whitewater Voyages:Merced/Tuolumne - http://www.whitewatervoyages.com/(800) 400-7238

Zephyr Whitewater:Merced/Tuolumne - http://www.zrafting.com/

From the end of the road in Yosemite, trails follow the river past Vernal and Nevada Falls to its sources in the wilderness of the park.

Avoiding Trespassing:The safest spots for legal river access in Merced County are Hatfield, McConnell, Henderson, and the access points maintained by MID and PG&E.  The others are privately owned, but have not been posted or fenced in the past (this is always subject to change).  This seems to indicate that the landowner is allowing access, however you may risk trespassing if you access the river at these points.

Taking Care of the River:  Unfortunately, several of these access points have been trashed by previous users.  Despite the work of volunteers to clean up the garbage, the problem continues.  If the situation doesn’t improve, more access points may close or be posted “No Trespassing.” 

Make sure you pack out your garbage and do anything you can to help keep these areas clean.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

Fishing Regulations:Make sure you check fishing regulations for the area in which you plan to fish:http://www.dfg.ca.gov/.  They change at the Crocker Huffman Dam.Although they are usually posted at the areas between the dam and the Highway 59 Bridge, conditions are always subject to change and may not be posted.

Other fishing and boating resources:

Fishing and Boating Resources at http://www.takemefishing.org/

Department of Fish and Wildlife Regulations:  https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/

Department of Boating and Waterways Regulations:  http://www.dbw.ca.gov/

Reservations for State, Federal, and Army Corps of Engineers Campgrounds:  http://www.reserveamerica.com

The goal of this page is to provide useful and accurate information about river access.  If you find something that is inaccurate or discover that conditions have changed, please inform the author atadamblauert@yahoo.com


Merced's Central Park: Applegate Park, Zoo & Kiddieland Merced

flag in park
flag in park

Applegate Park is Merced’s central park

Located along the Bear Creek Bikeway, the park is an excellent destination on bike or foot.  It offers 32 acres of recreation with a zoo, outdoor theater, picnic tables, bbq grills, volleyball nets, tennis/basketball courts, a skate park, rental facilities, a large playground, a rose garden and fountain, and the Kiwanas-sponsored Kiddieland amusement park.

train
train

Plenty of parking is located around the park.  Many community events are held at Applegate, including concerts and plays in the summer.

fountain
fountain

Location

Applegate Park is located along Bear Creek and the Bear Creek bikeway, between M and R Streets.  The southern edge of the park follows 25th Street, P Street, and 26th Street. 

Parking is available along the southern edge, N Street, and a parking lot on R Street near the Zoo.

applegate
applegate

Applegate Park Zoo

Kiwanis Kiddieland

Merced Open Air Theater

Sports Facilities (Tennis, Basketball, Volleyball)

Skatepark

Bear Creek Bikeway

Playground

Fitness Equipment

Rental Facilities

playground
playground
zoo 1
zoo 1

Applegate Park Zoo

The zoo specializes in local wildlife and activities for children, showcasing species native to the Central Valley and the foothills.  From commonly-seen birds such as egrets and hawks to the elusive mountain lion, the zoo offers a cross-section of native wildlife. 

Most of the animals have been relocated from wildlife rescue agencies.  

Although owned by the City of Merced, the zoo is operated by the nonprofit Merced Zoological Society.

zoo 2
zoo 2

Friendly, trained volunteers are available to answer questions.  This is a great place to get a close-up view of local species before heading out to a nearby wildlife refuge.

zoo 3
zoo 3

Hours and Admission

The zoo is open from 10-5 daily in the spring and summer and from 10-4 in the fall and winter, weather permitting.  The zoo is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. 

For the latest Zoo hours and cost for admission, click here

Location

The zoo is located on R Street between Bear Creek and 25th Street.  A parking lot is located on the corner of R and 25th.

goats
goats

Activities

Petting Zoo and Goat Feeding: Friendly (and hungry) goats can be fed with goat food for sale at the zoo’s gift shop until the day’s supply runs out.  Visitors who wish to feed the goats are advised to visit before 2PM. 

The zoo also offers a small petting area where kids can play with chickens, rabbits, ducks, kittens, turtles and guinea pigs.  

Field Trips: The Merced Zoological Society can arrange guided visits to the zoo for school groups.

Zoo Camp and Special Events: The zoo holds two one-week zoo camps for children aged 6 to 9 and a “Trick or Treat in the Zoo” on Halloween.

bobcats
bobcats

Sometimes it is the "small animals" that are fun for the little ones!

This is a safe and fun option for families with small children.  A storytime for kids aged 3-5 is offered every Saturday from 11-12.  A number of other special events happen throughout the year.

savana
savana

Birthday Parties

The zoo can be rented for birthday parties.  Facilities include the Rossotti Ed-Zoo-Cation Center building with tables, chairs, refrigerator, freezer, and silverware.  Table coverings, napkins, plates, cups, and invitations in an animal theme design are provided.

racoon
racoon

Zoo Parent Adoption Program

Groups can participate in the Zoo Parent Adoption Program which allows them to help feed and care for the zoo’s animals.

Gift Shop

The Zoological Society operates a gift shop that specializes in educational toys, books, and gifts.  All proceeds help support the zoo’s operations.

buck
buck

Species

Mammals: black bear, mule deer, bobcat, raccoon, red fox, silver fox, opossum, goat, capuchin monkey

fox
fox
screach owl
screach owl

Birds: albino scrub jay, black crowned night heron, black swan, burrowing owl, cattle egret, emu, great egret, great snowy egret, green heron, great horned owl, harrier hawk,

owl
owl
deer
deer

ibis, kestrel, killdeer, magpie, northern flicker, peacock, raven, red tailed hawk, snowy egret, screech owl, Swainsons hawk, wild turkey, whistling (tundra) swan, wimberl, white faced ibis

Reptiles: tortoise, turtle

City of Merced- Applegate  Zoo  info (click here)

or contact the Merced Zoological Society at Mercedzoological@sbcglobal.net /

(209) 725-DEER   (725-3337)

Kiddieland: Merced Kiwanis

Oporates the local Kiddieland amusement park since 1957.  With six rides including a train that loops around Applegate Park, Kiddieland is a great place to take children on weekend afternoons. 

Friendly Kiwanis volunteers operate the rides on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5PM starting in March of each year.

Kiddieland 1
Kiddieland 1

The amusement park remains open through October. Snacks are available at a refreshment booth.  Kiddieland can be also be rented for private parties.

For more information about Kiddieland, click here

Location: Near the intersection of 25th and Q Streets.

Kiddieland 2
Kiddieland 2

Additional information: Check out the Kiwanis webpage at http://greatermercedkiwanis.org/kiddieland Kiwanis is a worldwide volunteer organization whose motto is “serving the children of the world.”

Merced Open Air Theater

The most popular outdoor entertainment venue in Merced County, the Open Air Theater is the site of free concerts and plays throughout the summer.  The theater can be rented for private events.  Visit the City of Merced’s webpage for rental information: City of Merced Rental information.

Open Air Theater
Open Air Theater

Merced Shakespearefest stages Shakespeare plays at the Open Air Theater every summer.  For more information go to: http://www.mercedshakespearefest.org/index.htm

Location: The theater is located in the middle of the park along the bikeway.

Sports Facilities

Volleyball nets are located in the eastern half of the park, between M and O Streets.

Tennis and basketball courts are located in the center of the park, near Kiddieland.

Skatepark: The skatepark is located in the center of the park, near O and 26th Streets.

Skatepark
Skatepark

Bikeway: Applegate Park is located along the Bear Creek Bikeway, which runs from McKee Road to Highway 59. 

This route connects with other bikeways and bike lanes in Merced. 

For a map, go to http://www.cityofmerced.org/documents/bikepathmap.pdf

Also check out our page titled Bike Paths in Merced County for additional bike routes throughout the county.

Playground: A large playground is located in the center of the park along 25th street between Q and P Streets.  The playground includes swings, a large climbing structure with slides, and benches.

Rental Facilities: The Rossotti Ed-Zoo-Cation Center, Merced Open Air Theater, Scout Hut, Picnic Shelters, Gazebo and Rose Garden can all be rented for group events.    

Visit the City of Merced’s webpage for rental costs and forms: City of Merced Rental information.


Top 5 Local Things to do in Winter in and Around Merced County

Merced County Events-  Top 5 local

Christmas is over and it’s still cold in the Central Valley.  Once the holiday events have passed, the coldest months of the year often seem like a dead time for events and activities unless you’re going to mountains to ski or play in the snow.  Despite that impression, there are actually a lot of great things to enjoy during this time of year within an hour’s drive or less.

1.  Ice skating

For the second year in a row, Fields of Ice in Turlock has brought ice skating to our part of the Central Valley.  Located at 716 N. Daubenberger Road, this open air rink can be enjoyed during the day or under the stars as long as it isn’t raining.  The rink will be open this season through January 19th.  Ice skate rentals are included in the admission price and just about anyone can figure out how to propel themselves on the ice with a little practice – especially if you ever had any experience riding a pair of inline skates (rollerblades).  It’s an especially fun activity with a group of family members or friends.

2.  Performing Arts

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

Winter is a great time to enjoy live music or theater.  In addition to performing arts within our own county, the Modesto, Turlock, Fresno, and Sonora areas offer a huge range of live entertainment.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

For a list of performing arts venues and organizations within an hour’s drive, click here. 

3.  Wildlife refuges

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

Before large numbers of humans settled in the Central Valley, much of the valley’s floor was a great wetland in the winter months – a permanent home for many species and a winter home for many more.  Large areas that are currently managed as wildlife refuges continue to provide both year-round and seasonal wetland habitat.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

While the refuges are interesting throughout the year, they are especially enjoyable in the winter months when millions of migratory birds arrive. “Birdwatching… really??!??”  I know that’s what some readers are thinking at this point.  Visiting a wildlife refuge in the winter can actually be an unforgettable experience.  If you’ve done it yourself, you know what I’m talking about.

Don’t imagine this as sitting around for hours waiting for a single tiny starling or sparrow to show up.

As you stand on a viewing platform in the crisp evening air and watch great flocks of ducks and geese silhouetted against an orange-red sunset sky, it seems like you’ve stepped into another world – even though you’re only a few miles from civilization.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

Evening is usually the best time to visit. As the day ends, multitudes of ducks and geese return from feeding.  The refuges offer auto tour routes, short hiking trails, and viewing platforms to enjoy the avian show.

The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in Los Banos is also home to a large herd of magnificent tule elk.  Although they aren’t always close to the fence of their large enclosure, I’ve been able to spot them every time I’ve visited and sometimes they’ve been very close to the viewing platform.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

No matter when you go, wear warm clothes and bring a camera and/or binoculars. The closest refuge is the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, seven and a half miles west of Highway 59 on Sandy Mush Road.  It offers a five mile auto tour route, three short trails, and viewing platforms. About seven miles north of Los Banos on Wolfsen Road, the San Luis NWR offers two auto tour routes, several short trails, viewing platforms, and a beautiful new visitor center with exhibits about local wildlife.

Photo By Adam Blauert
Photo By Adam Blauert

If you arrive before evening, you can see both elk and birds in one day and also check out the visitor center (open 8AM to 4:30PM every day except federal holidays). The refuges are open daily from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset.

Admission to both refuges is completely free.

4.  Museums

Museums are great places avoid the cold in the winter and to cool off in the summer.  Merced County has a wealth of local museums, and so do the surrounding counties.

Photo by Adam Blauert
Photo by Adam Blauert

The Merced County Historical Society’s exhibits in the beautifully restored 139 year-old courthouse at 21st and N Streets is a great place to start if you’ve never seen it before or if you haven’t been there in a long time.

A new exhibit debuts every few months.  For complete information about current events click here.

The other rooms contain exhibits of the county’s history from the Yokuts people to the present time.

Other museums within the county and an hour’s drive include:

Merced:  Multicultural Arts Center

Los Banos:  Milliken Museum

Atwater:  Bloss House Museum

Castle Air Museum

Livingston:  Livingston Historical Museum

Dos Palos:  Dos Palos Museum

Gustine:  Gustine Museum

Chowchilla-Fairmead:  Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County

Madera:  Madera County Museum

Modesto:  McHenry Mansion

McHenry Museum

The Great Valley Museum

Turlock:  Carnegie Arts Center and Turlock Historical Society Museum

Oakdale:  Oakdale Cowboy Museum

Fresno-Clovis:  Kearny Mansion, Meux Home Museum, the Clovis-Big Dry Creek Museum, the Fresno Art Museum, and the Discovery Center

Mariposa:  California State Mining and Mineral Museum and the Mariposa Museum and History Center

Oakhurst:  Fresno Flats Historical Museum and Park

Raymond:  Raymond Museum

Sonora:  Tuolumne County Museum

La Grange:  La Grange Museum

It’s quite an impressive list.  If you’re wondering where to start, here are five of my favorites:

Castle Air Museum – huge collection of military aircraft, WWII to present

California State Mining and Mineral Museum – mining history and lots of stunning mineral specimens

McHenry Mansion – beautifully restored 1882 Victorian mansion, one of the best preserved in the entire Central Valley

Fresno Flats Historical Museum and Park – extensive collection of restored pioneer buildings and artifacts, lots of space to explore and picnic

Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County – amazing fossils of massive creatures that lived here in the past

Because museums often reduce their hours during the colder months, call to verify before you visit.  Admission to many museums is free of charge, while others require a small per-person fee.

5.  Blossom Tours

Photo By Adam Blauert
Photo By Adam Blauert

As winter draws to a close, local orchards put on one of the most impressive displays of blossoms that can be seen anywhere.  Usually beginning in the second half of February, these blossoms can usually be enjoyed by driving (or riding your bike) on rural roads in Merced County.  For more info about blossom tours, click here.

Photo By Adam Blauert
Photo By Adam Blauert

The University of California’s Cooperative Extension program has compiled several excellent tour routes for different parts of the county.  The maps are available for free on their website:  http://cemerced.ucanr.edu/Blossom_Tours_262/. 

 


Visit Hagaman Park-Merced County

 Photo by adam blauert

Photo by adam blauert

Hagaman Park

Located on a bluff above the Merced River in northwestern Merced County, Hagaman Park is especially popular with residents of the west side of the county. A large picnic area is available for rent.

Because of drownings, this area is not open to fishing and a fence runs along the bluff to discourage river access. 

If you want to swim or fish in the Merced River, try George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area, or McConnell State Recreation Area.

Location

  • 19914 River Road, Stevinson, CA (Intersection of River Road and Highway 165)
  • Distance from Merced:  24 miles
  • Distance from Los Banos:  23 miles

Facilities and activities

  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas and shelters
  • Playground
Hagaman Park
Hagaman Park

Merced County Historical Society Museum

 photo by adam blauert

photo by adam blauert

Merced County Historical Society Museum

Merced County’s history comes to life in the museum operated by the Merced County Historical Society.  Housed in the 1875 Italianate-style courthouse, over 8,500 square feet of permanent and rotating exhibits tell of the history and development of the county.

One of the oldest and best-preserved buildings in the region, the old courthouse was designed by the state capitol architect Albert A. Bennett.

It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Exhibits

The museum’s displays cover the history of the county from ancient times to the present day including:

  • Yokut Indian artifacts
  • Displays of early ranching and farming, including a blacksmith shop
  • Artifacts from Merced’s Chinatown
  • A display of Merced County schools and a turn-of-the century classroom
  • “Old Betsy” – Merced’s first fire engine, built in 1859
  • The restored 1875 courtroom
  • Displays of home life in the later 1800’s through early 1900’s

Hours and Admission

The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 1-4.  Admission is free and knowledgeable docents are available to provide tours.  The building is wheelchair accessible.

Location

 21st and N Streets, Merced

Gift Shop

The gift shop sells a wide variety of books about local history, along with gifts and souvenirs.

Events

The Merced County Historical Society hosts a wide range of history-themed events throughout the year.  Check the website for a current schedule.

Archives

The museum holds a large collection of county records.  Appointments to access the collection can be made by contacting the museum’s office.

Contact Information

 (209) 723-2401/ http://www.mercedmuseum.org/


Romero Visitor Center – San Luis Reservoir

 Photo by adam Blauert

Photo by adam Blauert

Romero Visitor Center – San Luis ReservoirDrivers heading out of Merced County over Pacheco Pass often notice the sign for the Romero Visitor Center at the San Luis State Recreation Area and wonder what it is. 

For several years I did this – always on my way to get somewhere else.  Finally last month I stopped to check it out.

 Reservoir from Museum -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Reservoir from Museum - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Sisk Dam

Located at the top of the long span of Sisk Dam, the visitor center has exhibits about the history of the area, the construction of the dam, and California’s massive water storage and delivery system.  Tours are available and a variety of films about water in California can be shown upon request.

 If you’ve ever wanted to know more about water use and management in the Golden State, this is a great place to start. 

Hours and cost

Open from 9AM to 5 PM daily (except major holidays), it is an easy and relatively quick stop on your way to somewhere else. 

Better yet, admission is free.  While you are there you can learn about recreational opportunities at the San Luis State Recreation Area and other recreation areas within the California State Water Project System from the Department of Water Resources guide on duty. 

 Exhibits -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Exhibits - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

California Department of Water Resources

Although most of the visitor services within the San Luis SRA are operated by California State Parks, the Romero Visitor Center is operated by the California Department of Water Resources.

 The reservoir was constructed between 1963 and 1967.  Part of both the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, the reservoir holds water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta before it is delivered throughout the state via the California Aqueduct and the Delta-Mendota Canal. 

This redistribution of the state’s water is part of what makes modern California and possible.  In a state where much of the land is desert (less than 10 inches of precipitation annually) or semiarid (less than 20 inches annually), water management is tremendously important to support a population of 38 million inhabitants, plus agriculture, industry, commerce, recreation, tourism, and wildlife. 

Largest off-stream reservoir in the United States

385-foot tall rock and earthfill Sisk Dam forms the fifth-largest reservoir in California.  Holding 652 billion gallons of water when full, the lake is only surpassed in size by Shasta, Oroville, Trinity, and New Melones. 

It is also the largest off-stream reservoir in the United States. 

Rather than stopping the flow of a river along its natural course, an off-stream reservoir holds water that has been pumped away from its natural location.

 With this year’s worrisome dry winter, it’s a great time to increase your knowledge of this precious and scarce resource. 

Although the reservoir is currently near full capacity after last year’s exceptional winter, it may soon be returning to the low levels that were so common a couple of years ago.  Now is the time to enjoy the beauty of the reservoir. 

For optimal viewing, pick a day with clear skies and clean air. 

If we continue to get precipitation the hills may be very green by March and April.  Great wildflower shows are common after wet winters.

 Looking at the elk -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Looking at the elk - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

 Tule Elk

From the patio behind the visitor center, visitors can use free telescopes to view the lake and the surrounding hills. 

If you’re lucky, the area’s herd of native tule elk may be within sight.  On my recent visit they were grazing close to the dam.

 Tule Elk -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Tule Elk - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

For more information

go to http://www.water.ca.gov/recreation/locations/sanluis/sanluisvisitor.cfm

or call (209) 827-5353.

Henderson Park

  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Henderson Park popular for picnics

Stretched along the bank of the Merced River in eastern Merced County, Henderson Park is shaded by tall trees and further back from the road than the facilities at Hagaman County Park or George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area.

Like McConnell State Recreation Area, it feels more distant and removed than it actually is.

The park is popular for picnicking, large gatherings, river recreation, and fishing. Three rental facilities are available, including an indoor clubhouse with kitchen and fireplace.

Although Merced County Parks and Recreation discourages swimming in county parks, swimming is not prohibited here. Warning signs are posted and any swimming you do is at your own risk.”

Location

Merced Falls Road, 1 mile east of Snelling Distance from Merced: 20 miles Distance from Los Banos: 55 miles

Facilities and activities

  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic/banquet facilities (indoor and outdoor)
  • Playground
  • Softball diamond
  • Horseshoe pits
  • Dogs allowed? No
  • Horses allowed? No
  • Hunting allowed? No

Fishing and boating

Fishing for rainbow trout is popular along the river and small boats can be hand launched from a concrete ramp (vehicles are not permitted near the ramp).

Nearby Parks: Camping is available at:

George J. Hatfield Recreation Area

 Photo by adam blauert

Photo by adam blauert

George J. Hatfield Recreation Area:

This state park has a mile of river frontage and plenty of shade.  It’s proximity to the road and the poor condition of some of its facilities make it less favorable than some of the other parks on the river, but it still provides many excellent fishing opportunities.

 Hatfield -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Hatfield - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Near the park is a historic bridge over the Merced River.  Built in 1910, it is now open only to pedestrians and bikers.  It provides nice views of the river.

  • Location:  4394 North Kelly Road, Hilmar, CA
  • Distance from Merced: 30 miles
  • Distance from Los Banos:  29 miles
  • Size:  46.5 acres

Hatfield Facilities and activities:

  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Campgrounds/group campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas
  • Swimming area
  • Dogs allowed?  Yes
  • Horses allowed?  No
  • Hunting allowed?  No
  • Fishing or boating?  Fishing can be good at George J. Hatfield Recreation Area. Rainbow trout and bass can be caught in the spring; catfish and perch throughout the year.  No boating ramp is provided, but it is possible to swim in the river or to launch a float tube or hand-carried boat.

Website: Hatfield Recreation (click Here)

Nearby Parks:  Undeveloped Great Valley Grasslands State Park has a six mile hiking trail.

 

Merced County Wildlife Refuges

 photo by adam blauert

photo by adam blauert

Merced County Wildlife Refuges

Most of the acreage is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with additional areas under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Fish and Game.

Recommended areas to visit

 Merced Wildlife Refuge -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Merced Wildlife Refuge - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Merced National Wildlife Refuge

Merced Unit:  Auto tour, hiking trails, viewing platforms

 San Luis Refuge  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

San Luis Refuge  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

San Luis Unit:  Elk and waterfowl auto tours, hiking trails, viewing platforms, visitor center.

 San Luis Refuge  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

San Luis Refuge  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex

The largest unit is the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which is made up of several individual units including the Merced National Wildlife Refuge and the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. 

Much of this area is open to the public for a variety of recreational uses.

Tule Elk

In addition to the many avian species, a herd of magnificent tule elk can be viewed in the San Luis Unit on Wolfsen Road north of Los Banos.  Once hunted nearly to extinction, stable populations now live in several areas throughout the state.

 San Luis Refuge -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

San Luis Refuge - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Birds

The refuge complex is located along the Pacific Flyway, an important migration corridor for dozens of species of waterfowl and other birds.

Some of the most common include Ross’ geese, Aleutian cackling geese, snow geese, green-winged teal, mallard, northern pintail, gadwall, American wigeon, northern shoveler, and white-fronted geese. 

The refuge complex constitutes the largest contiguous freshwater wetlands remaining in California.

While wildlife can be viewed throughout the entire year, the wintering populations of lesser Sandhill cranes and Ross’ geese are a highlight.  They arrive in the fall and stay until about mid-April, eventually returning to their summer homes in Alaska and Canada.

 San Luis Refuge -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

San Luis Refuge - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Some remain throughout the summer and use the area as a breeding ground.  During the foggy winter months, afternoon is usually the best time to visit.

In addition to wetlands, vernal pool and upland habitat also abound in the refuge.  As the ground dries out in the spring, a brilliant wildflower show occurs in the vernal pool regions.

Visitor Center

  Interpretive displays and group programs will be offered.  Special tours and programs can be arranged for schools, clubs, and other organizations.  For information about the new visitor center click here.

Useful websites for the San Luis Wildlife Refuge Complex

San Luis NWR main website: http://www.fws.gov/sanluis/default.htm

Each refuge area with public access is described below with its principal recreational features and facilities.  Check each individual area for specific rules regarding hunting and fishing.

Catfish and bass are the most common fish species.  Hunting regulations and types of game vary by area, but can include all waterfowl and upland game birds, deer, and wild pigs.  Horses are not permitted.

For additional information, use the web links to access resources provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game.

Merced National Wildlife Refuge - Merced Unit

The main unit of the Merced NWR is open to both auto touring and hiking on three designated trails.  Only a few miles from Merced, this is a great place to spend an afternoon in the fall, winter, or spring.

  • Location:  Sandy Mush Road, west of Highway 59.
  • Activities and Facilities:
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Auto tour route – 5.2 mile auto tour route circles the heart of the refuge with four viewpoints, two observation decks and access to three hiking trails.  Visitors are asked to remain in their vehicles except at these points.

Hiking trails

  • Meadowlark Trail – 1.5 mile loop
  • Kestrel Trail - .5 mile loop
  • Bittern Marsh Trail - .6 mile loop
  • Hunting
  • Restrooms
  • A photo blind is available for nature photographers by obtaining a special use permit.  Vernal pools can be observed north of Sandy Mush Road.  Pets are allowed as long as they remain in vehicles.  No fishing is allowed in this refuge area.

Merced National Wildlife Refuge – Lone Tree Unit

This area is only open to hunting.

Location: Sandy Mush Road, west of Highway 59.  Adjacent to Merced Unit.

Activities and Facilities

  • Hunting

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge – Blue Goose Unit

 This area is only open to hunting.

Location:  Highway 140, east of Gustine.  Adjacent to Kesterton Unit.

Activities and Facilities:

  • Hunting

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge – Freitas Unit

 This area is only open to hunting.

Location:  Highway 140, east of Gustine.  Adjacent to Kesterton Unit.

Activities and Facilities:

  • Hunting

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge - Kesterson Unit

In the late 1980’s, the selenium-contaminated Kesterton Reservoir was drained, decontaminated, and redeveloped as an addition to the San Luis NWR. It now provides over ten miles of unsigned hiking trails and great opportunities to view wildlife.  

Trails are not marked, but visitors are welcome to wander around outside of hunting season.

Location:  Highway 140, east of Gustine

Activities and Facilities:

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hiking trails:  Kesterton contains a network of over 10 miles of interconnected nature trails.  These trails are open from February 15 – September 15.
  • Hunting

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge - San Luis Unit

This part of the SLNWR offers the widest range of activities.  Two auto tour routes and three hiking trails give visitors a chance to observe tule elk and many bird species.  The new visitor center is now open.  The new visitor center provides an opportunity to learn more about the refuge and its inhabitants.

Location:  Wolfsen Road, north of Los Banos.

Activities and Facilities:

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Auto tour route
  • Elk Tour Route – 5 miles
  • Wetlands and Waterfowl Tour Route – 12 miles
  • Visitor center
  • Dogs allowed
  • Hiking trails
  • Sousa Trail – 1.2 miles to an observation platform and telescope
  • Chester Trail – 1 mile  (Open February 15 – September 15)  This trail leads to the San Joaquin River and the site of Chester, an early settlement in Merced County.
  • Winton Marsh Trail - .7 mile to an observation platform and benches
  • Hunting
  • Fishing – a special access road on the west side of the elk enclosure provides access to all fishing areas.
  • Restrooms
  • Drinking fountains

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge - West Bear Creek Unit

This area offers hiking trails and an auto tour route.  It receives less visitation than other parts of the San Luis NWR.

 San Luis NWR -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

San Luis NWR - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Location:  Highway 165 (Lander Avenue), north of Los Banos

Activities and Facilities

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Auto tour route:  2 ¼ mile route around a large wetlands slightly west of the San Joaquin River with two viewpoints.
  • Hiking trails:
  • Woody Pond Trail – approximately 1.5 mile loop trail with viewpoint
  • Raccoon Marsh Trail – approximately 1 mile loop trail with viewpoint
  • Hunting
  • Restrooms

Wildlife Refuges Operated by the California Department of Fish and Game

In addition to the 128000 acres managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, another 24,000 acres are managed by the California Department of Fish and Game.  These include:

  • Cottonwood Creek Wildlife Area
  • Los Banos Wildlife Area
  • North Grasslands Wildlife Area
  • O’Neill Forebay Wildlife Area
  • San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Area
  • Volta Wildlife Area
  • West Hilmar Wildlife Area

State Wildlife Refuges Map: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/wa/region4/docs/LosBanosGrasslandsVoltaWA.pdf

"Each refuge area with public access is described below with its principal recreational features and facilities.  Check each individual area for specific rules regarding hunting and fishing.

Catfish and bass are the most common fish species.  Hunting regulations and types of game vary by area, but can include all waterfowl and upland game birds, deer, and wild pigs.

Horses are not permitted.  Hiking biking are allowed from the end of the second week in February through September.  Bicycles may be ridden on levee roads.

Dogs are permitted and may be off leash from June 6 through the end of March.  Drawdown of the waters within the refuges usually takes place in spring and the refuges remain largely dry until the late fall.

For additional information, use the web links to access resources provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game.”

Cottonwood Creek Wildlife Area

Location:  Western edge of Merced County, northeast of Highway 152

Activities:

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hunting

Website: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/wa/region4/cottonwoodcreek.html

Los Banos Wildlife Area

Location:  Northeast of Los Banos on Henry Miller Avenue

Fishing and kayaking are allowed on Buttonwillow and Ruth Lakes.  Catfish and crappie are the most commonly caught fish species.

Activities and Facilities:

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Boat launch
  • Restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • No designated trails, but foot and bike access is allowed throughout the area.

Website: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/wa/region4/losbanos.html

North Grasslands Wildlife Area

China Island Unit:  Brazo Road, northeast of Highway 33, between Gustine and Newman

Gadwall Unit:  Santa Fe Grade Road, east of Los Banos

Salt Slough Unit:  North of Los Banos on Highway 165 (Lander Avenue)

Activities and Facilities:

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Boat launch

Website: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/wa/region4/northgrasslands.html

O’Neill Forebay Wildlife Area

Location:  Highway 33, just north of Highway 152.  Adjacent to San Luis State Recreation Area.

Activities and Facilities:

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hunting
  • Restrooms

Website: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/wa/region4/oneillforebay.html

San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Area

Activities and Facilities:  South of Highway 152 at Dinosaur Point Road.  Adjacent to San Luis State Recreation Area, Pacheco State Park and Upper Cottonwood Creek Wildlife Area.

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hunting
  • Restrooms

Website: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/wa/region4/sanluisreservoir.html

Volta Wildlife Area

Location:  Ingomar Grade Road, northwest of Los Banos.

Activities and Facilities:

Wildlife viewing

Hunting

Website: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/wa/region4/volta.html

West Hilmar Wildlife Area

Location:  Four miles south of Hills Ferry on the east side of the San Joaquin River..  Accessible only by boat.

Activities and Facilities:

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hunting

Website: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/wa/region4/wes

Western Merced County boasts over 152,000 acres of wildlife refuges and conservation easements.  Making up over 12% of the county’s total land area, these refuges are home to tule elk and a wide range of migratory birds. 

Popular for wildlife viewing and hunting, the refuges also offer auto tour routes, hiking trails, and viewing platforms with telescopes. 

Fishing is allowed in many areas.  Access to all areas is free.


Great Bike Paths in Merced County

riding bike
 Bike Paths - photo by adam blauert

Bike Paths - photo by adam blauert

Bike Path in Merced

Merced County communities have an extended network of bike paths and bike lanes with many more planned for future construction.  This network is made up of three distinct classes of pathways, lanes, and routes.

 Bear Creek Bikeway  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Bear Creek Bikeway  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Class 1:  Separate pathway for bikes, pedestrians, skateboards, and other non-motorized uses.

Class 2:  A separate bike lane along the edge of a road; indicated by a striped line.

 Class 3:  A designated route without painted lines to indicate a separate bike lane.

 Bike Paths  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Bike Paths  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

There are many miles of bike paths in Merced

City of Merced city bikeway map  (click here)

Merced bike paths on Google Maps (click here)

Great links for local information about bicycling in Merced County.

 Bear Creek Bikeway -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Bear Creek Bikeway - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Additional Information

For additional information on biking, bike maintenance, bike events, and riding in Merced County, check out the website:  

Merced Bicycle Coaliton : http://www.mercedbicyclecoalition.org/

Trans_Logo_Large_600
Trans_Logo_Large_600
boy on merced city bike trails
boy on merced city bike trails

Bike Licensing

Bikes owned by residents of the incorporated areas of Merced County (Atwater, Dos Palos, Gustine, Livingston, Los Banos, Merced) must be licensed. 

A 3-year license costs $5 and is available from the police station in your city.  The information typically required in the license form includes band, model, serial number, wheel size, and frame size. 

The City of Merced provides its license information here.  CLICK HERE

 

To obtain a license, visit your local police station

  • City of Atwater Police Department - 750 Bellevue, Atwater / (209) 357-6385
  • City of Dos Palos Police Department - 1546 Golden Gate Ave, Dos Palos / (209) 392-2177
  • City of Gustine Police Department  - 682 3rd Ave, Gustine / (209) 854-3737
  • City of Livingston Police Department - 1446 C Street, Livingston / (209) 394-7916
  • City of Los Banos Police Department - 945 5th Street, Los Banos / (209) 827-7070
  • City of Merced Police Department - 611 West 22nd Street, Merced / (209) 385-6912

Bikes on the Bus:  Bike racks are provided on Merced County Transit Busses (The Bus).


Visit the Parks of Merced City

 Photo by adam blauert

Photo by adam blauert

Merced City Parks

The City of Merced maintains a wide range of neighborhood, regional, and community parks within the city limits.  Many of these parks are located along Merced City Bikeways. 

Information on bike routes is included in the descriptions below.  

 Applegate -photo by adam blauert

Applegate -photo by adam blauert

The city’s largest parks include

  • Applegate Park
  • Fahrens Park
  • Joe Herb Park
  • McNamara Park
  • Merced Dog Park
  • Rahilly Park
  • Youth Sports Complex

Neighborhood Parks

...are located within a half mile walk of nearly every home in Merced.  To find a park in your neighborhood, click on this link to view a map on the City of Merced’s website:http://www.cityofmerced.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=7595

This map also shows parks that the City plans to build in coming years.

 Kiddieland -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Kiddieland - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Applegate Park

Applegate Park is Merced’s central park.  Located along the Bear Creek Bikeway, the park is an excellent destination on bike or foot.

It offers 32 acres of recreation with a zoo, outdoor theater, picnic tables, bbq grills, volleyball nets, tennis/basketball courts, a skate park, rental facilities, a large playground, a rose garden, fountain, and the Kiwanas-sponsored Kiddieland amusement park.

Plenty of parking is located around the park. 

Many community events are held at Applegate, including concerts and plays in the summer.

 

 Fahrens Park -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Fahrens Park - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Fahrens  Park

Stretched out along both Faherns and Black Rascal Creeks, this park boasts a brand new disc golf course and plenty of shade.

 Fahrens Park -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Fahrens Park - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Fahrens Park features a frisbee course

Location:  Along Buena Vista Drive between R Street and Highway 59.

Size:  48 acres

Facilities:

 bike rider

bike rider

 For information about the bike trails of Merced, click here.

Joe Herb Park

Adjacent to Golden Valley High School, this park provides a large area for recreation in southeast Merced.  City league softball games are often held on the lighted softball fields.

Location:  2200 Yosemite Parkway, Merced

Size:  27 acres

Facilities:

  • Restrooms and drinking fountains
  • Picnic tables and shelters, BBQ grills
  • Playground
  • Concessions stand
  • Baseball/softball diamond
  • Horseshoe pits
  • Soccer fields

McNamara Park

Centrally located in south Merced, McNamara Park offers a broad range of recreational activities and plenty of shade.

Location:  1040 Canal Street, Merced, Ca

Size:  9 acres

Facilities:

  • Restrooms and drinking fountains
  • Picnic tables and shelters, BBQ grills
  • Playground
  • Concessions stand
  • Recreation hall
  • Baseball/softball diamond
  • Basketball courts
  • Horseshoe pits
  • Soccer fields
  • Swimming pool
 Dog Park  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Dog Park  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Merced Dog Park

Looking for a place to allow your dog to play off-leash with other dogs?  The Merced Dog Park has well-fenced areas for both small dogs and larger dogs.

For information about the local dog club:

M-DOGS (Merced Dog Owners Group)

Location: Yosemite and R Streets

 Merced Dog Park -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Merced Dog Park - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Size:  8 acres

Facilities:

 Dog Park  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Dog Park  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Rahilly Park 3
Rahilly Park 3

Rahilly Park

 A shady creekside park in the center of north Merced, Rahilly Park has long been a favorite with families. 

To avoid confusion, note that Google maps and other online map sources may refer to this park as “Black Rascal Park.”

 Rahilly Park -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Rahilly Park - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Rahilly Park

Location:  3302 Parsons Avenue, Merced

Size: 17 acres

Facilities:

Youth Sports Complex

Location:  1800 Block of Wardrobe Avenue, Merced

Size:  12 Acres

Facilities:

  • Restrooms and drinking fountains
  • Concessions stand
  • Baseball/softball diamond
  • Soccer fields

 


George J. Hatfield Recreation Area Merced County

 photo by adam blauert

photo by adam blauert

George J. Hatfield Recreation Area

This state park has a mile of river frontage and plenty of shade. It’s proximity to the road and the poor condition of some of its facilities make it less favorable than some of the other parks on the river, but it still provides many excellent fishing opportunities.

Near the park is a historic bridge over the Merced River. Built in 1910, it is now open only to pedestrians and bikers. It provides nice views of the river.

 Hatfield -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Hatfield - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Location

4394 North Kelly Road, Hilmar, CA

Distance from Merced: 30 miles

Distance from Los Banos: 29 miles

Size: 46.5 acres

Facilities and activities

  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Campgrounds/group campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas
  • Swimming area
  • Dogs allowed? Yes
  • Horses allowed? No
  • Hunting allowed? No

Fishing or boating?

Fishing can be good at George J. Hatfield Recreation Area. Rainbow trout and bass can be caught in the spring; catfish and perch throughout the year.

No boating ramp is provided, but it is possible to swim in the river or to launch a float tube or hand-carried boat.

Website

Hatfield Recreation (click Here)

Nearby Parks

Undeveloped Great Valley Grasslands State Park has a six mile hiking trail.


Lake Yosemite, Merced, Ca.

lake-yosemite-sign-e1305510404581

Just down the street from UC Merced....enjoy the beauty!

 YOSEMITE LAKE -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

YOSEMITE LAKE - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Lake Yosemite

Only seven miles from the center of Merced, Lake Yosemite has long been a popular spot for picnics, family outings, group activities, fishing and boating. 

 Lake-Yosemite- -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Lake-Yosemite- - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

It isn’t the largest lake in Merced County, but it is close to home and has extensive recreational facilities. 

Most facilities are accessed from Lake Road, but a secondary fishing access point is located at the end of Old Lake Road. 

Lake Yosemite’s water comes from the Merced River

 It is diverted into the Main Canal by the Crocker-Huffman Dam, halfway between Snelling and Merced Falls.  Surface area of lake:  500 acres.

 Playground -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Playground - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Rentals Available at Lake Yosemite

Facilities and activities:

Fish species:  Bass, bluegill, and catfish.  Trout are stocked in the early spring, but don’t last through the summer because of water temperatures.

Rentals

Non-motorized boats are available on summer weekends from the concession stand. Website: Yosemite Lake (click here)

Nearby parks:  The closest camping is available at McConnell State Recreation Area, and Lake McClure and Lake McSwain.

Recreation organizations

The Lake Yosemite Sailing Association organizes sailboat events and races, maintains a docking area, and teaches sailboating skills. 

Membership is open to all who have an interest in sailing. 

Boat ownership is not required and new members can learn to sail by crewing on boats owned by other members. 

The LYSA also offers a Sail Camp for youth aged 8 and up during the summer months. http://www.lakeyosemitesailing.org/

 Lake Yosemite  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Lake Yosemite  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT


Lake McSwain and Lake McClure

 photo by adam blauert

photo by adam blauert

Lake McSwain and Lake McClureLake McSwain and Lake McClure: These two sister reservoirs on the Merced River are operated as a unit by the Merced Irrigation District.  Both provide excellent fishing.

  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Lake McSwain may be tiny in comparison to Lake McClure, but sometimes has better trout fishing.  Gigantic Lake McClure is especially popular for waterskiing, wake boarding, and houseboats.

A 15-mile trail between the Bagby Recreation Area (Highway 49) and Briceburg (140) provides good river fishing, hiking, and mountain biking.

 bike park   

bike park

 

  • Location:  Lake McClure Road near Merced Falls
  • Distance from Merced:  30 miles
  • Distance from Los Banos:  66 miles
  • Operating authority:  Merced Irrigation District
  • Surface area of lake: McClure 7,110 acres, McSwain 308 acres

Facilities and activities

  • Boat ramps, marina, fish-cleaning stations
  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Campgrounds/group campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings, shelters, hot showers, RV hookups
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas and shelters
  • Swimming beach
  • Playgrounds
  • Store, laundry facilities, dump station
  • Dogs allowed?  Yes
  • Horses allowed?  No
  • Hunting allowed?  No
  • Fish species:  bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, shad, sunfish, trout
  • Rentals:  Boats and personal watercraft including houseboats

Website: http://www.lakemcclure.com/

Drought Watch information for MID


McConnell State Recreation Area

  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

McConnell State Recreation Area

Like the other Merced River Parks, McConnell has a lot of shade. It’s also a bit more developed than Hatfield and further from the highway.

If I were to pick a Merced River park in the Valley to camp at, this would be it.

Location

8800 McConnell Road, Ballico, CA

Distance from Merced: 22 miles

Distance from Los Banos: 35 miles

Size: 74 acres

Facilities and activities

  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountainsCampgrounds/group campground with BBQ grills/fire rings, hot showers
  • Picnic areas with tables and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic area
  • Swimming area
  • Dogs allowed? Yes
  • Horses allowed? No
  • Hunting allowed? No

Fishing or boating?

Fishing can be good at McConnell Recreation Area.

Rainbow trout and bass can be caught in the spring; catfish and perch throughout the year.

No boating ramp is provided, but it is possible to swim in the river or to launch a float tube or hand-carried boat.

Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=554

and http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/554/files/McConnellHatfield.pdf

Nearby parks

Undeveloped Great Valley Grasslands State Park has a six mile hiking trail.