South-of-Yosemite Wonders

History and Essentials
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Directions: To get to the heart of Madera County, from the Bay Area take 99 South past Merced to 145 East through Madera. Go north on Route 41 to the Oakhurst area.

Accommodations: In addition to Ducey's, you can find excellent lodging at the Pines Resort, also in Bass Lake, the Marriot's Tenaya Lodge in Fish Camp, and a number of bed-and-breakfast inns. Camping is also available around Bass Lake and at U.S. Forest Service campgrounds. Call the Southern Yosemite Visitors Bureau at (209) 683-INFO, or the Bass Lake Chamber of Commerce at (209) 642-3676 for more details.


The county also has a rich Native American culture, with about 600 Mono and Miwok Indians still living there. There are no separate reservations, but for a great display of Miwok history, visit the Wassama Roundhouse State Historical Park in Ahwahnee. A roundhouse was a structure used for ceremonies connected with births, harvests, mourning the dead, and other major tribal events. Such buildings were normally burned when a tribal leader died and a new one was then built. This is one of only three in the entire state, dating back to 1903 and restored in 1985.

As for the Mono Indian culture, there's the Sierra Mono Museum in North Fork, which was historically their cultural center. This tribe was known for its intricate baskets, many of which are on display at the museum, along with tools, clothing, and medicines used by these people for centuries.

There's more to this county, as well, such as Bass Lake with its boating, swimming, shopping, and Ducey's by the lake — a 60-year-old renowned resort that burned in 1988 and was completely rebuilt in stone and wood and lakeside rooms with Jacuzzis, fireplaces, and beamed ceilings; the Yosemite MountainSugar Pine Railroad, a narrow-gauge steam train ride up Lewis Creek Canyon, starting at Fish Camp, four miles south of Yosemite on Route 41; and, you're close enough to Yosemite National Park at the end of the day to drive in to see the sunset near Inspiration Point at the turnout just through the Wawona Tunnel on Route 41. (See a map of Yosemite National Park) It's one of the most photographed vistas in the world, with views of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, and Bridalveil Fall. We had a picnic dinner at this spot, but you could dine much more elegantly back at Ducey's, as you do your own reflecting on everything that's happened in Bull Buck Tree's lifetime.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 6 Oct 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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