Frogs and birds were singing their tunes and turtles basking in the sun on a beautiful day as I walked with the Sierra Foothill Conservancy (SFC), exploring the trails of the Stockton Creek Preserve. Recent land acquisitions have expanded this reserve, a partnership with SFC and Mariposa Public Utilities District (MPUD), to 700 acres and grants have improved and added new trails.
Where: Mariposa Public Utilities District, Sierra Foothill Conservancy (SFC), Stockton Creek Nature Preserve
Distance: 3.83 miles
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Elevation range: 1,968′ – 2,337′
Elevation Gain: 760′
Date: February 26, 2022
CALTOPO: Stockton Creek Preserve Hike with Sierra Foothill Conservancy
Canine hike? Yes
The Stockton Creek reserve had received new acquisitions, expanding this fine reserve to 700 acres. There were new trails and they had recently received several major grants to improve trails, signage and respite areas. I signed up for a hike with the Sierra Foothill Conservancy (SFC) to learn more. Additional information on how to sign up for their hikes and lessons can be found at the end of this blog.
Our meeting place was near the Mariposa athletic field. To get there, I headed north on Hwy 49 towards Mariposa, took a right on 6th street, climbed the steep hill to the end, then took to right onto Mariposa Street. I took the first left, Mariposa Track Field was on the left a short distance away. I parked along the road. Our guides, Nan Oswald, Ninette Daniele and Dave Waldrop, met us and we signed a liability waiver, then headed to the Trail Kiosk at the end of the road.
Here is information about the SFC’s Stockton Creek Reserve:
the Stockton Creek Reserve is a unique partnership project between Sierra Foothill Conservancy and Mariposa Public Utility District (MPUD). The completion of this 410-acre reserve and trail system ensures the protection of domestic water supplies, conservation of the viewing pond, recreational opportunities and reduced fire risk. SFC worked in partnership with MPUD to develop the project and complete the 410-acre Stockton Creek Preserve with the county agency in December 2011. MPUD will now own and manage the property for its public benefits in perpetuity. SFC and MPUD are very grateful to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy for providing funding for this now publicly accessible preserve.
The Stockton Creek Preserve surrounds the Stockton Creek Reservoir and provides immediate watershed protection for the city’s primary domestic water resource. The Mariposa High School track team has been training on the property for years and can now do so freely as the reserve is open to the public. Visitors, residents, and students can enjoy hiking just outside of town on the reserve’s trail system. The preserve includes a trail easement donated by the Fischer family through their adjacent property so that publicly accessible trails now extend from just above MCHS to Highway 140.
MPUD will implement fuel reduction and vegetation restoration projects to reduce the significant fire hazard posed by the property and avoid impacting the city’s water quality. MPUD projects manage and mitigate significant damage to native vegetation in the SCP. A previous vegetation management treatment in 2000 left a significant fuel load on the property. In 2004, a fire spread from Mariposa to the property. Due to the legacy of fire suppression and fuel load on the property, the burning devastated the native vegetation and precipitated a more homogeneous regrowth of chaparral. The following runoff period resulted in more than double the amount of “naturally occurring” contaminants in the city’s water supply, resulting in a year-long violation of the Federal Drinking Water Disinfection Byproduct Rule. . MPUD’s management of the Stockton Creek Preservation Management Project works to restore the native plant community and reduce the possibility of these types of catastrophic wildfire effects and negative supply impacts. in Mariposa water.
At the sign, the trail splits, the left trail called Upper Trail and the right trail called Trail. We took the trail that took off to the left and did a loop on the upper trail. Also note that the official Stockton Preserve map at the end is a bit older and doesn’t show the trail to the right.
The trail zigzagged up the hill towards the creek and we stopped halfway to listen to a frog sing along. Click this link to hear what it sounded like.
The trail quickly reached Stockton Creek and when we started to cross it we were surprised. Nan told us about an ongoing native wildlife project art installation called “Stockton Creek Hide and Seek” between SFC and the Mariposa Arts Council. Local artist Jackie Baxton has created 3 brass turtles which are nestled in the creek area. We easily located 2 but did not see the third.
Walking the trail along the east side of Stockton Creek we worked to identify various plants. California Buckeye started flipping.
A few Shooting Stars were beginning to bloom.
We pulled out plant identification books and apps on some that we couldn’t easily identify.
We continued on the trail.
So far the trail has been very easy, although a little muddy in some places. We had a short section where we headed to a steeper rocky spot.
We took a break, listening and identifying the birds. We watched a California Towhee scratching in the dirt, then heard a Wrentit hovering. A cute little lesser goldfinch then showed up. We also saw California Scrub Jays along the way. I’m grateful that Nan helped me with the names because by the time I got home I had forgotten them.
We could also see the upper trail that we would take later.
We continued to Stockton Creek Reservoir which provides water to the Mariposa area through the Mariposa Utility District. And we looked for pond turtles, with Ninette’s eagle eye, spotting 5 of them basking in the sun on a tree lying partially in the water. I needed to use my binoculars to spot them so my super zoomed images wouldn’t even come close to showing them to you. She also shared with us that what used to be called the Western Pond Turtle has been split into 2 species. All populations north of San Francisco
Bay Area and Northern Central Valley populations are now known as the Northwest Pond Turtle (Emys marmorata). The turtles in the southern parts of their range, the Central Coast Range south of San Francisco Bay and including the Mojave River, are known as the Southwest Pond Turtle (Emys palida).
We continued on the road/trail on the west side of Stockton Creek, looking at old stuff along the way back to where we started.
You can also access these trails from the upper end of the Slaughterhouse Road area (see map). Going up Highway 140 east of Mariposa about 0.8 miles above the old highway, there is a large area of land to park with an entrance to the preserve through a gate.
There is plenty of wildlife in this area such as deer, squirrels and a number of different birds including California quail, crows and the occasional red tailed hawk, eagle owl. America or vultures. There are also rattlesnakes and I have seen some here.
You can hike this reserve on your own, but if you’re interested in doing one of these guided hikes on SFC land, there are plenty of choices on their website linked at the end of this blog. . You can register online and if you are a member there was a cost of $15. Don’t worry if you’re not a member because the cost was $25 for this hike. The funds go to a wonderful cause, the protection of our foothills lands. They also organize open conservation days at which there is no registration fee.
The mission of the Sierra Foothill Conservancy is:
- Protects wildlife and preserves native flora
- Provides educational and recreational opportunities to the community
- Promotes the scientific study of foothill ecosystems
- Maintains open space and beautiful views
SFC is a nonprofit public benefit corporation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code and Section 23701d of the California Revenue and Taxation Code. Contributions are deductible for federal income tax purposes.
Yes. This is the only one of our local reserves where dogs are welcome, but there are some dangers to be aware of. This area is laden with poison oak, and your dog will pick up the oils on his coat, possibly sharing them with you or your family when he gets home. As I mentioned above, there are also many rattlesnakes in the area. The Stockton Creek Reservoir serves as drinking water for the town of Mariposa. The reservoir is a restricted area and no public access is allowed as it is a drinking water source. Thus, you will need to provide drinking water to your dog. Here is the dog policy for the Sierra Foothill Conservancy:
DOGS POLICY: In order to protect endangered species and sensitive habitat, only service dogs are permitted on the reserves, with the exception of Stockton Creek Reserve in Mariposa where dogs are welcome at all times.
Leave no trace: Leave the reserve as you found it – try to follow the Seven Leave No Trace Principles. THANK YOU and looking forward to seeing you in the great outdoors!
What is a Doarama? This is a video playback of the GPS track superimposed on an interactive 3-dimensional map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt or rotate it and look at it from different angles. With the bunny and turtle buttons you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.
Hike Stockton Creek Preserve with Sierra Foothill Conservancy Doarama
Cards and profile:
CALTOPO has a few free options for mapping and here is a link to my hike this week: CALTOPO: Hike at Stockton Creek Preserve With the Sierra Foothill Conservancy
Sierra Foothill Conservancy homepage
Stockton Creek Reserve
Stockton Creek Wikipedia
Pacific Chorus Frog Sounds CaliforniaHerps.com
California Herpes Home Page
Natural Art by Jackie Baxton
Previous blogs in the region:
Hike with Sally in Stockton Creek Nature Reserve February 4, 2020
Hike with Amphibians and Reptiles in Stockton Creek Nature Reserve April 15, 2019