Merced River Recreation Management Area
Guide

Introduction

Located downstream from Yosemite National Park is the Merced River Recreation Management Area, a place that is popular for whitewater boating, swimming, camping, and gold panning, among other recreation activities. Regardless of the time of year, visitors will find something to do; even during the winter months, the weather is frequently warm and sunny, with highs in the daytime in the 60s.

Within the Merced River Recreation Management Area are three developed BLM campgrounds that are along the Merced River. During the spring, visitors can view gorgeous wildflowers, typically from March into May. During spring runoff, the area offers opportunities for whitewater adventures, whether by raft or kayak, typically from April through July. During summer months in the area, temperatures are hot and the Merced River is a great choice for cooling off, boasting clear swimming holes. As fall comes, the crowds get smaller and you will still find plenty to see and do, like birdwatching, fishing, biking, and hiking.

When seeking the chance to spend time outdoors, no matter the time of year, the Merced River Recreation Management Area is a great choice and an ideal place for your next RV adventure!

RV Rentals in Merced River Recreation Management Area

Transportation

Driving

From Merced, take CA-140 E, which is a two-lane paved road, for 35.7 miles. Continue on CA-140 E for another 11.7 miles until reaching Briceburg Rd/Bull Creek Rd, where you will turn left. After crossing the Merced River, continue on Briceburg Rd, which runs parallel to the Merced River.

As you continue along Briceburg Road, you will pass the area’s three campgrounds; first McCabe Flat campground, then Willow Placer campground and finally Railroad Flat campground. After just under five miles on Briceburg Rd (and right after Railroad Flat campground) you will arrive at the Merced River Trailhead.

Parking

Parking is available within the Merced River Recreation Management Area.

Public Transportation

Public transportation is not available to the Merced River Recreation Management Area.

Campgrounds and parking in Merced River Recreation Management Area

Campsites in Merced River Recreation Management Area

First-come first-served

McCabe Flat Campground

McCabe Flat Campground is a BLM campground that is located within the Merced River Recreation Management Area and can be found 2.3 miles west of the Briceburg suspension bridge. Within the campground are 11 campsites; eight are walk-in and three are drive-up. The campground includes two vault toilets, trash cans, and recycling bins. Each site has a picnic table, fire grill, and food storage locker.

Within the campground is a designated swimming beach and each site is within 200 feet of the river. Sites are first-come, first-served and as there is no water at the campground, it is important to bring what you need for your stay. RVs and trailers that are up to 18 feet long can be accommodated.

Railroad Flat Campground

About 4.5 miles from the Briceburg suspension bridge is Railroad Flat Campground, which features nine campsites; three walk-in sites and six drive-up sites. The campground is also the trailhead for the Merced River Trail, ensuring that visitors have easy access to hiking and biking opportunities.

The campground has a vault toilet as well as trash and recycling collection cans. Each site has a picnic table, fire grill, and food storage locker. There are no hook-ups at the campground and RVs and trailers of up to 18 feet are able to be accommodated. Sites at Railroad Flat Campground are first-come, first-served.

Willow Placer Campground

The Willow Placer Campground is located within the Merced River Recreation Management Area, 3.6 miles downstream from the suspension bridge. The campground offers eight walk-in sites as well as one group campsite that can accommodate up to 25 people. There is a vault toilet at the campground as well as trash bins and recycling cans.

Sites are first-come, first-served, and each has a picnic table, fire grill, and food storage locker. There are no hook-ups at the campground and RVs and trailers that are up to 18 feet in length are able to be accommodated. The campground is generally quieter than the other two within the Merced River Recreation Management Area, and a good choice for families.

Seasonal activities in Merced River Recreation Management Area

In-Season

Go Whitewater Rafting

The Merced River, which begins in Yosemite National Park’s high country, flows throw canyons carved by glaciers, mountains and foothills to the San Joaquin Valley. There are a number of opportunities for whitewater rafting on the river, including rapids that are rated class III to class V. Guided trips are available and there are plenty of places to access the river for those who are experienced rafters seeking to head down the river on their own.

Explore the Merced River Trail

Looking to go for a hike, ride your mountain bike or travel by horseback? The Merced River Trail, which runs along the old Yosemite Railroad from the Briceburg Visitor Center to Highway 49 Bridge near Bagby, is perfect for all three activities.

The trail, which is 18 miles long, offers a way to get some exercise while taking in beautiful surroundings. Three campgrounds can be found along the trail, as well as the McCabe Beach swimming area, where you can enjoy a quick dip if you need to cool off (the trail has little shade). Enjoy the trail year-round!

Visit Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park includes 748,436 acres of land in the western Sierra Nevada of Central California. An average of four million people visit the National Park each year with Yosemite Valley being the most popular area in which to spend time.

Within Yosemite National Park, visitors can experience its waterfalls, clear streams, large groves of Sequoia trees, lakes, cliffs of granite, mountains, and meadows. The Park offers a myriad of opportunities for visitors to explore and view gorgeous scenery.

Go Fishing

There are excellent opportunities for fishing within the Merced River and surrounding area, including Yosemite National Park. If you are looking to fish within Yosemite, the fishing season (for fishing in streams and rivers) starts on the last Saturday in April and continues to November 15 for all but Frog Creek (opens June 15).

The lakes and reservoirs within the Park are open all year. Fish for rainbow and brown trout while enjoying the area’s amazing scenery. Make sure to familiarize yourself with fishing regulations for the area; for example, there are special catch and release regulations for native rainbow trout in certain parts of the Merced River.

Go Prospecting

Visitors to the Merced River Recreation Management Area can try their luck at prospecting for gold in the surrounding area. Fun for visitors of all ages, prospecting is an excellent way to spend time outdoors amongst gorgeous scenery while possibly even finding a bit of treasure. Give it a try on your own or check out classes and workshops on how to prospect in nearby Briceburg. Enjoy trying something new as you breathe in fresh air and take in the beauty of your surroundings.

Off-Season

Check out California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa

A migration to the interior wilderness of California occurred when it was announced that there was gold in the hills of California. One of the places where gold was found was in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Mariposa. The California State Mining and Mineral Museum presents the history of the mining town of Mariposa along with the state of California.

Go back in time during your visit as you learn about the area and mining culture.