Lava flowed from an ancient volcano down an old riverbed, forming the Table Mountains that soar high above the San Joaquin River Gorge. Over time, these mountains were uplifted and a stream cut the steep canyon we now call, the Gorge. Almost 7,000 acres of public land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM,) are located here along the San Joaquin River. This hidden gem is located just outside the town of Auberry, in the foothills between Millerton Lake and Kerckhoff Reservoir.
The Gorge is located within the prehistoric boundaries of several Native American tribes. For thousands of years, Mono and Yokut Indians have lived off the abundant resources of the area. Descendants in the local community feel a strong connection to the Gorge and share their cultural knowledge and skills during education programs. They maintain their heritage by making and using traditional baskets, gathering and processing native plants for food and goods, by hunting and fishing, and practicing their cultural traditions of song and dance.
Two factors, proximity to the coast and a unique elevation grade, make the Sierra Nevada one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. A unique blend of habitats sustains more than 300 species of plants and animals at the Gorge. The open pine-oak woodland is composed of blue and live oaks, grey pines, redbud, and California buckeye. In contrast, mountain chaparral is a dense thicket of manzanita, buck brush, whitethorn, mountain mahogany, and yerba santa. Springtime paints a wonderful canvas of colors on the grasslands.
Wildflowers such as fiddlenecks, popcorn flowers, goldfields, lupines, baby blue eyes, California poppies, and many other species cover the landscape. Rich in wildlife, the Gorge is home to mammals such as cougars, mule deer, grey foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and squirrels. Look skyward for bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, and quail. Peer in streams to observe Pacific tree frogs and California newts.
Local visitors of the Gorge feel a strong connection to the river and the plants and animals that live along its shores. We understand how the natural world functions and our human ability to change it. Let this knowledge influence how we behave in the outdoors by adopting “Leave No Trace” principles on public lands: 1) Plan Ahead & Prepare, 2) Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces, 3) Pack It In, Pack It Out, 4) Properly Dispose of What You Can’t Pack Out, 5) Leave What You Find, and 6) Minimize Use & Impact of Fires.