Merced River California Fly Fishing, Camping, Boating

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Merced River

The popular California Merced River starts its journey in Yosemite National Park and finds its way to the Pacific, providing spectacular scenery and plenty of whitewater rafting, fly-fishing and more.

  • The Merced River in California provides visitors to Yosemite some incredible scenery and outdoor recreation
  • Fish for some carp, smallmouth bass, Sacramento sucker and Pacific lamprey
  • Camp out near the river and get lulled to sleep by its comforting sound
  • There are many trails to hike near Merced River


The Merced River flows from the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Yosemite all the way to the San Joaquin River in the Central Valley, ultimately reaching the Pacific Ocean. All along its path you’ll discover the fascinating changing character of a river popular for all sorts of outdoor recreation.

Location & Information

Merced River CA can be accessed at various points along its 112-mile course. For whitewater rafting you can put in at El Portal, the Highway 140 bridge, and many other spots. There’s also access in the town of Snelling and from the Snelling Road Bridge. For fishing the best accesses are in Yosemite and along Highway 140 in Mariposa County, from 4 ½ miles below Briceburg to the Foresta Bridge in El Portal.

The river is accessible all year.


  • Fishing
    Merced River California offers some wonderful fishing for all anglers, including those who also like to take in some incredible scenery. Between the South Fork and the Foresta Bridge, the Department of Fish and Game stocks rainbow trout. You’ll also find brown trout, western sucker, and squawfish. In the lower parts of the river in the Central Valley you can catch some smallmouth bass, carp and Sacramento sucker. Perhaps you will also pull in a Pacific lamprey, a chinook salmon or a striped bass.
  • Hiking
    There are numerous trails around the Merced River, one of the most popular being the John Muir Trail beginning near Happy Isles in Yosemite. Taking this trail brings you past Vernal Falls and into Little Yosemite Valley. You can join up with the Pacific Crest Trail near Tuolumne Meadows. Hiking near the Merced gives you some amazing views and the pleasure of getting out in the fresh clean air of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
  • Whitewater Rafting
    You can partake of whitewater rafting downstream from Yosemite Valley to the entrance to Lake McClure. Upstream from El Portal you’ll find the most difficult stretch, with Class III and Class IV rapids.
  • Bird Watching
    There are 127 bird species along the river, many migratory or only appearing during breeding season. However common ones you’ll spot are the cedar waxwing, tree swallow, ruby-crowned kinglet and the endangered white-tailed kite. The list of birds is long, and you’re sure to spot some you’ve never seen before.
  • Camping
    All through the upper Merced watershed you’ll find many campgrounds, including at Railroad Flat, Merced Lake, Bridalveil Creek and many other spots. Camping by the river is usually only permitted in designated campgrounds.

Fun Facts

The Merced River winds its way through and past many famous sights of Yosemite. It begins near Merced Lake at the foot of the Clark Range, flows 10 miles through a steep canyon then spills into Little Yosemite Valley. It meets up with the John Muir Trail and rushes over Nevada and Vernal Falls, passes into Yosemite Valley and through forests as it moves on into the Central Valley.