Wildflower and Vernal Pool Tour at the Arena Plains Unit of the Merced National Wildlife Refuge (limited to 40 participants, advance sign-up required)
April 15, 2017 at 9:00 a.m.
Join us 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 it evaporates. 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 – including 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 tour will begin at 9:00 a.m. on April 15th 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 terrain.
Due to limited parking and road infrastructure on the unit, this tour is limited to 40 participants on a sign-up basis. All Arena Plains tour 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).