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New Melones Free Hikes, Treks And Excursions

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The Bureau of Reclamation announces the spring interpretive programs at New Melones Lake, with the first trek (hike) beginning tomorrow.

Park Ranger Mike McGraw was Friday’s KVML “Newsmaker of the Day”.

All activities are free and suitable for all ages; most do not require reservations. Participants should wear sturdy shoes and weather appropriate clothing. A water bottle and sunscreen are also recommended. Children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Table Mountain Trek
Saturday, March 4, 10 a.m.
Table Mountain

What will all the winter rains reveal on top of Table Mountain? Will a kaleidoscope of flowers emerge and the area’s vernal pools be replenished? Join Park Ranger Mike and explore the unique habitat and geology of Table Mountain. This is a challenging 3 mile hike with a ¼ mile series of steep, rocky switchbacks that lead to the top for grand views of New Melones Lake and the surrounding area. Good hiking shoes, water and a snack are essential. We will meet at the corner of Shell and Rawhide Roads at 10 a.m.

Mountain Biking in the Motherlode
Saturday, March 11, 6 p.m.
New Melones Lake Visitor Center

Join Sonora Cyclery and Reclamation for a special evening presentation exploring the world of mountain biking. Learn what preparation is needed for a ride and find out where in the Motherlode you can go to take part in this fun, energetic sport; including the extensive mountain biking trail system at New Melones Lake.

We will meet at the New Melones Lake Visitor Center at 6 p.m. and all experience levels are invited to attend to learn more!

Fire to Flowers
Saturday, March 18, 10 a.m.
Glory Hole Recreation Area

During the summer of 2015, a fire took place in the Glory Hole Recreation Area, just north of the Buck Brush Loop Trail. The fire scorched a dry grassland area in and around oak woodland, along Angels Creek. From that destruction came rebirth. Join Park Ranger Sam to discover the floral display that often follows a fire and the unique ecology of the Chaparral ecosystem along the Buck Brush Trail. This is an easy to moderate, 1½ mile, round-trip hike. Please bring water and snacks and be sure to wear shoes appropriate for hiking. We will meet at the Glory Hole Entrance Station at 10 a.m. and caravan to the Buck Brush Loop Trailhead. Participants will be issued a free parking pass for the duration of the event.

If These Rocks Could Talk!
Sunday, April 2, 10 a.m.
Natural Bridges

The Motherlode’s geology is a source of fascination. One of the more curious geological features of the area is Natural Bridges. Take a hike with Park Ranger Josh and learn how water and time has shaped the landscape. Along the trail, learn a bit about the local flora and fauna. This is a moderate to strenuous, 2-mile, roundtrip hike. Participants may return uphill on their own. Please bring water and snacks and be sure to wear shoes appropriate for hiking. We will meet at the Natural Bridges Trailhead parking lot off of Parrotts Ferry Road at 10 a.m. Dogs are not allowed on the Natural Bridges trail.

A Night with Jupiter
Friday, April 7, 7 p.m.
Glory Hole Recreation Area

Join us when Jupiter, our solar system’s largest planet, will be at its closest approach to the Earth with its surface fully illuminated by the sun. Park Rangers Diana and Ryan will help visitors uncover what the night can reveal. Join them and learn how to identify some of the more prominent constellations and stars in the sky. Telescopes will be on hand. Please dress warmly and bring a flashlight. We will meet at the Amphitheater inside Ironhorse Campground of the Glory Hole Recreation Area at 7 p.m. As with all programs, please call 209-536-9094 ext. 233 if poor weather is forecast.

Heron Point Hike
Saturday, April 8, 10 a.m.
Tuttletown Recreation Area

The birds and the bees will be busy along Heron Point Trail this spring. Enjoy a leisurely 3 mile hike with Park Ranger Pat and discover what nature has to offer on a fresh spring day. We will meet at the Tuttletown Entrance Station at 10 a.m. and caravan down to the Heron Point trailhead. Participants will be issued a parking pass for the duration of the event.

The Stars Over New Melones Lake
Saturday, April 22, 7:30 p.m.
Tuttletown Recreation Area

The night sky will be active with the Lyrids Meteor Shower underway. Join park rangers and observe the constellations, stars and other heavenly bodies above New Melones Lake. Telescopes will be on hand. Please dress warmly and bring a flashlight. We will meet at the Tuttletown Entrance Station at 7:30 p.m. and caravan to the Eagle Point Picnic Area. Please call 209-536-9094 ext. 233 if poor weather is forecast.

Chaparral Foray
Saturday, April 29, 9 a.m.
Parrotts Ferry Bridge

Where would you want to hike on a spring morning? California’s distinctive Chaparral ecosystem is a great place to start! Hike through a “forest of shrubs” and learn about this fire and drought adapted plant community. Along the way, catch a glimpse of history by viewing what remains of the Duchess Gold Mine. This is a strenuous 3½ mile loop hike along a section of Table Mountain. Please bring plenty of water and sturdy hiking boots. We will meet at the parking lot on the Calaveras County side of the Parrotts Ferry Bridge at 10 a.m. Please call 209-536-9094 ext. 233 if additional directions are needed.

Kayaking Excursion
Sunday, May 7, 10 a.m.
New Melones Lake Visitor Center

Experience the beauty of New Melones Lake from a unique perspective on this ranger-led paddling tour. The journey begins at the Mark Twain Recreation Area and then proceeds up the Stanislaus River Canyon toward Parrotts Ferry. Along the way, park rangers will discuss the flora, fauna, geological formations and cultural history of the area. This outing is open to experienced swimmers with their own kayak or other nonmotorized boat. Expect to be out for four hours. Participants need to bring their own boat, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket (properly fitted and serviceable), paddles, sunscreen, hat, water and lunch. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required. Please contact Park Ranger Josh at 209-536-9094 ext. 236 to reserve your place at this event. We will meet at the New Melones Lake Visitor Center at 10 a.m.

An Evening with Bees
Saturday, May 20, 7 p.m.
New Melones Lake Visitor Center

Discover what’s “abuzz” with park ranger and bee aficionado Sam. Learn the life history of arguably nature’s most beneficial insect, the honey bee. Also, become familiar with some of the bees’ close relatives in our region. The program begins at the New Melones Lake Visitor Center at 7 p.m. “Bee” a part of the evening’s festivities.

New Melones Lake Water Education Program
Available Upon Request

A water education program has been developed at New Melones. This new interdisciplinary learning experience is designed for students in grades 4 and 5. The program integrates the natural resources of New Melones Lake with California curriculum standards. School classes can join a Park Ranger to learn about the importance of water in their lives. In addition to the on-site learning experience, a teacher packet is available with logistical information and pre, post, and on-site visit activities. Park Rangers are also available to conduct classroom visits. For more details on this free program, please contact Ranger Mike McGraw at 209-536-9094 ext. 233 or

Mussel Outreach Programs
Available Upon Request

They are only about the size of a thumbnail yet can overwhelm aquatic environments by their sheer numbers. Invasive Quagga and Zebra mussels pose one of the greatest threats to New Melones Lake, disrupting ecosystems, impeding dam operations and impacting water recreation, especially boating and fishing. Throughout the United States, lakes and rivers have forever been altered by these tiny creatures. Although no invasive mussels are currently present in New Melones Lake, keeping the lake mussel-free is a challenge we all share as a community. Park Rangers will be attending events throughout the year to provide outreach and education to the public free of charge. If you would like a Park Ranger to visit a school, speak to students, or attend a civic function or other occasion to provide outreach, please contact Natural Resource Biologist Sam Sosa at 209-536-9094 ext. 221 or

For general information about a program, directions, or the status of a program if inclement weather is forecast, please contact Ranger Mike at 209-536-9094 ext. 233.

Ranger-led hikes tie into the Department of the Interior’s Let’s Move Outside initiative ( ), which was created to encourage children and their families to enjoy outdoor activities, which abound in every city, town and community.

The New Melones Lake Visitor Center and Museum is managed by Reclamation’s Central California Area Office and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For additional information on activities, directions, pet restrictions or other questions, please call 209-536-9543 (TTY 800-877-8339) or visit the New Melones Lake website at .

The “Newsmaker of the Day” is heard every weekday morning at 6:45, 7:45 and 8:45 on AM 1450 and FM 102.7 KVML.

  • New Melones from Table Mountain Trail photo by Sabrina Ambler