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The Wild (and Ancient) Merced River

While the majestic peaks surrounding Yosemite Valley draw most of the oohs and aahs from visitors—for good reason, of course—one of the architects of the environment, the Merced River, often garners much less attention.

Yet the Merced predates all of those famous summits. The ancient river began methodically carving a path through the valley’s relatively soft sedimentary rock many millennia ago. Long before the last ice age created the glaciers that occupied and helped form the valley. And long before those glaciers, in their not-so-hasty retreat, carved the facades of El Capitan, Half Dome and the other granite monoliths of the park.

Still wild after all these centuries, the Merced continues to rush through Yosemite on its way to California’s Central Valley, delighting us in its passage. In some places, it is serene; in others, wild and tempestuous.

Though I find inspiration in both, I chose an example of the latter to feature in this post. It captures, I believe, both the beauty and unpredictable nature of the river: the tumult of the waves one finds in the rapids; the subtle flourishes of spraying water; the patterns that form as the river hurdles over the rocks that glaciers sliced off the granite walls; and the myriad and changing colors of the water as it rushes downstream.