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Poppy meadows of Merced Valley and Hite's Cove

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 37.65961 N 119.91535 W
No:27        (list of all attractions)
Address:North America, United States, California, Mariposa County, Merced Valley some 15 - 20 km west from El Portal
Dominating species:Tufted poppy ((Eschscholzia caespitosa Benth.)? or California poppy ((Eschscholzia californica Cham.)
Poppy meadow in Merced River valley, California
Poppy meadow in Merced River valley / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Landscape of Merced River Valley is world famous due to Yosemite Valley - beautiful, impressive glacial valley, the oldest protected area in United States, formally protected since 1866.

One of the most popular routes leading into the park is Highway 140 along the Merced River. When approaching the Yosemites the valley gradually becomes deeper and deeper. In springtime the beautiful landscape is supplemented by unusual sight - high hillsides on both banks of the river bedome colored bright orange by millions of poppies. Merced Valley poppy meadows and Hite Cove wildflower meadows belong to most beautiful wildflower displays in this part of California.

Poppies in Merced River valley, California
Poppies in Merced River valley / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Which poppy is it?

There is some controversy regarding the species of poppies seen in Merced River Vallery and Hite Cove. While some state that this beautiful orange flower is California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.), others consider that most of these plants are tufted poppies (Eschscholzia caespitosa Benth.). Both plants are very similar and California poppy forms numerous diverse forms, thus for non-specialist it is not that easy to differentiate them.

Rare salamander

The poppy meadows of hillsides of Merced valley can be observed from car. Although this is beautiful experience, one can't say that this means being close to nature. Walking on these slopes is not advised - in many cases these steep hillsides are not safe. Under the stones there might be hiding unique amphibian - limestone salamander (Hydromantes brunus Gorman, 1954). This small creature lives only in this part of Merced River Valley and nowhere else in the world, it is hiding deep in talus. Inattentive step might create landslide and kill fragile salamanders. Thus better enjoy the beautiful scenery from the road.

Meadows along the Hite Cove Trail, California
Meadows along the Hite Cove Trail / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Hite Cove Trail

Hite Cove is named after John Hite who was searching for gold in this area in the 1860s.

One can get much closer to the nature when taking a walk on the Hite Cove Trail which goes along a small tributary of Merced River. Here nature trail leads through some of the most beautiful wildflower meadows. Take a walk here in March - April, and if weather is good, you would be overwhelmed by the beauty of this place.

Poppies are abundant along the trail, but there are numerous other interesting flowers as well: baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii Hook. & Arn.), Sierra blazing stars (Mentzelia crocea Kellogg), blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum (Benth.) Alph.Wood), yellow pincushions (Chaenactis glabriuscula DC.) and many others - more than 60 species of wildflowers in total.


See Merced Valley popy meadows on the map of United States!


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