We have been exploring the neighborhood looking for new spots along the Stanislaus River to park and jump in to cool off on a hot summer's day. Most of the "fishing access" parks are quite handy. We recently spent a wonderful morning at Fox Grove Fishing Access off Geer Road, and I was surprised by a lot of things.
I was surprised by an official boat ramp there. We are used to the makeshift boat ramp for human-powered craft at the J16 bridge crossing the Merced River at Merced Falls at the base of McSwain Dam. So it was a bit of a surprise to see a boat ramp on the Stanislaus and seeing motor- powered craft being put into the water. I was surprised because I know the river has a lot of submerged and shallow underwater hazards. Readers should beware of using a craft larger then 20 feet or an outboard motor on the river.
I could see where a small fishing craft would be handy to get to the nice fishing spots on the other side of the river where the muskrat was swimming. My daughter and I watched a crew of college-aged boys put a small canoe in the water. We hoped all seven would get in for a comedic moment, but only two boarded the craft, promising the others they would find a fine swimming beach upstream.
It was nice to sit by the river while my daughter and her friend played in the water. I watched the vehicles crossing the bridge, their drivers never thinking of stopping at the park. The birds were busy that morning. It is always fun to watch the ever-busy swifts flying circles in the sky, dipping here and there while trying to catch flying insects in their beaks. The sparrows are forever busy seeking food for their ever-hungry babies in the nest.
The osprey did not dive and catch a fish in front of me (which would have been cool), but it did fly toward its nest at the top of the tallest tree. The beige-brown flickers were a nice, quiet change from the noisy woodpeckers at my house.
It was neat to identify the muskrat by its smooth swimming. It was funny to watch the college boys standing in the bright sunshine toss in their lines across the river for a few minutes, catch nothing, and walk away. I kept quiet about the nice-sized small-mouth bass I saw swimming in the inlet in front of me, and the two larger fish coming up for air about 30 feet away toward the middle of the river. I want to come back with my fishing pole and try my own luck here!
The only discouraging thing was that the bathroom doors were welded shut. It has always bugged me that people think it is OK to vandalize public bathrooms and leave their trash by the side of the river. If I have any message to the readers it is this: Please don't. Please don't assume that someone is paid to pick up your trash after you. There is no one to clean up after you except the next person, and they don't really want to.
You were given a handy-dandy plastic bag to hold your snacks and drinks purchased at the convenience store; please use that same bag for your trash. Please tell your kids and their friends not to litter, and please tell them not to destroy the public bathrooms at the parks.
Pass the word along. It is the 1 percent of the bad people who ruin the parks and their facilities for the rest of us. I liked this park, and I want to come back again and enjoy it, but people, myself included, would like to have clean bathroom facilities there to clean up after we are done swimming in the river.
It is time to become good citizens again and be good stewards and users of these wonderful county parks.
Holt is a landscape horticulture graduate of Merced College who divides her time between Merced and Mariposa. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.