Wildflower and Vernal Pool Tour at
the Arena Plains Unit of the Merced National Wildlife Refuge (limited to 40 participants, registration
April 11, 2015 at 9:00 a.m.
Join in for a special tour of a unique and ecologically
sensitive area that is typically closed to the public. Vernal pools are
special seasonally-flooded depressions with impermeable hardpan bottoms that
hold rainwater until evaporation occurs. The pools spring to life as they are filled by rain: Fairy
and Tadpole Shrimp emerge from cysts embedded in the soil during previous years
and amphibians, such as endangered Tiger Salamanders, lay eggs from which
tadpoles hatch. As spring arrives and the water evaporates and recedes,
wildflowers – such as Goldfields and Purple Owl’s Clover – grow in colorful
halos around the pools. This annual coloring led John Muir to
describe the valley floor as the “floweriest part of the world” he had ever
seen. This tour will
focus on wildflower viewing and learning about vernal pool ecology -- the pools
might be dry for the tour if warm weather persists, but there are still plenty
of interesting things to observe and learn about on the area.
The tour will begin at 9:00 a.m. on April 11th and
last approximately 2-3 hours, consisting of caravanning in attendees’ personal
vehicles (trucks and SUVs strongly recommended) into the interior of
the Arena Plains Unit and walking on firm, but slightly uneven
Due to limited parking and road infrastructure on the unit, this
tour is limited to 40 participants on a first-come/first-served basis. All attendees must phone the Refuge Complex
office at 209/826-3508 to reserve a spot. Due to the rustic
nature of roads on the unit, only high clearance vehicles (trucks, SUVs) will
be able to drive on the tour. We will consolidate into as few vehicles as
possible at the meeting site.
Driving Directions/Meeting Location:
The Arena Plains Unit is normally closed to public access and
does not have a street address. Access is from a small sandy road off of
Highway 140 with a sign marked “Snobird Lane.” The meeting location will
be on the south side of Highway 140 approximately 6.5 miles east of Highway 165
and 7 miles west of Applegate Road. From Highway 99, take Highway 140
westbound. After passing Applegate Road, continue 7 miles. Turn
south onto "Snobird Lane" and continue for one-half mile to the
meeting place at the refuge gate. Please note to be on the lookout for
the Snobird Lane sign as it is a very small dirt/sand road and could be easily
missed. It is helpful to set your odometer and watch your mileage from
either Hwy 165 (6.5 miles) or Applegate Road (7 miles).
Call 209/826-3508 with any questions or to reserve a spot!