The Merced River is in California. Its headwaters are in the southern half of Yosemite National Park. The river flows into the Yosemite Valley. Much of the water is diverted by the Merced Irrigation District at the New Exchequer dam. The remainder of the water flows southwest through foothills, and then across the San Joaquin Valley to join the San Joaquin River.
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Irrigation and Fish
Much of the length of the river has been improved, to facilitate fish spawning.
A map of the Merced River watershed and Merced Irrigation District canals is available at: http://www.mercedid.org/_images/watershed_map.pdf . This map shows the irrigation district's main canals; it does not show the small canals and pipelines that serve most farms. The map also shows creeks that collect stormwater runoff.
Towns along the Merced River include:
- Wawona (on the South Fork)
- Merced Falls(a largely abandoned community)
- Snelling (a former gold mining town)
- Ballico (a "fanciful history" of this town has been posted at: http://www.folds.net/Haney/ballico.html )
If the Merced River took the most direct path to the San Joaquin River, it would follow Bear Creek through mostly-clay soils.
The Ice Ages severely affected the Merced River. A glacier carved out the Yosemite Valley, grinding mountains into sand. Half Dome and El Capitan are remnants of those mountains. Since the Ice Ages, the Merced River has flowed past Livingston, leaving sandy soil in its wake.
The river was named El Río de Nuestra Señora de la Merced (River of Our Lady of Mercy) in 1806 by an expedition, headed by Gabriel Moraga, which came upon it at the end of a hot dusty ride.