Great Valley Grasslands

Since fall is here, I wanted to photograph the fall colors in the Sierra. Unfortunately the location I picked is not quite ready, so I postponed my trip for a few more days. Another thing I wanted to do is see if the Merced NWR and the San Luis NWR had started filling the pools for the migrating birds. I also wanted to try and capture some new pictures of the Tule Elk at the San Luis NWR.

I got up early Friday morning to hit the San Luis NWR at first light and on my way home, stopping at the Merced NWR. When I arrived at the stop light at the junction of highway 140 and 165, I see a big sign saying that 165 was closed except for local travel. I decided to take the detour route and hope I can get there in time.

As I got near Gustine, I drove by a portion of the Great Valley Grasslands. There was a nice river, some mist/fog over the river and the sun was facing east. I took the small road and parked.

I stayed here for about an hour and left. Since I was still curious if I could get to the San Luis NWR, I continued. I was able to get there and WOW…I haven’t been there in a few years. They are building a nice welcome center there. The Elk were a bit too far for me to take any pictures though.

I stopped at the Merced NWR and the pools are being filled right now so another few more weeks and they should be done.

Here’s some of my favorite shots from the Great Valley Grassland morning.

Mike Matenkosky

Mike is a Central Valley California landscape and nature photographer whose subjects include scenes from Merced County, Yosemite, SeKi, and the eastern Sierra. He is currently living in Atwater, CA.

The text and photographs are © Copyright Mike Matenkosky (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from Mike Matenkosky.


  1. It’s always a bit disappointing when plans go awry, but sometimes the second choices reap some lovely rewards. That certainly worked for you here, Mike. The fog and mist looks nice and you got a nice set of shots. I really like “Morning has Broken”.


  2. Mike you have not lost your touch, enjoyed your pictures again.


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