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Stories from the valley

Dave Moore Nature Area

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

Tucked away in the Sierra Foothills just off Highway 49 near Coloma, you’ll find the delightful Dave Moore Nature Area. A main feature is a short loop trail that meanders through wildlife habitats, passes Gold Rush-era artifacts, and rewards visitors with views of the South Fork of the American River.

A Navy veteran, avid outdoorsman, and range conservationist with the Bureau of Land Management, Dave Moore, for whom the nature area is named, was stricken with multiple sclerosis at the age of 35 and forced to retire just three years later. His affliction fostered an awareness among his BLM colleagues of the plight disabled persons face when attempting to enjoy the outdoors. They developed the Dave Moore Nature Area as a tribute to him.

The one-mile loop trail provides wheelchair access to the American River. Starting at the north end of the parking lot, the natural-surface trail travels through a mix of manzanita, gray pines, oaks, and madrones. As it gently descends towards the river, the trail winds alongside former waterways lined with rock walls built by Chinese gold seekers. Tailing piles from the Gold Rush days blanket the area, contributing to its unique landscape.

Wheelchair accessibility ends at a beautiful spot where the South Fork of the American River makes a gentle bend, resulting in a small section of rapids. A wheelchair user would have to return along the same route to the parking lot. The remaining non-wheelchair accessible half mile continues through the Foothill landscape and returns visitors to the south end of the parking lot.

This year-round trail is suitable for all age groups. However, in the winter it suffers a bit from erosion, making the wheelchair accessibility a little challenging in a couple of spots. The Bureau of Land Management is active in maintaining the trail. Signage at the sight provides users with information as to how report obstacles so they can be removed. 

For more information and directions, visit this link. This would be a great trip for families with younger children. Exercise caution when at the river because the water travels swiftly and is cold, although it warms up in the spring and fall. If visiting during the hot summer months, be sure you take drinking water. Sturdy shoes are recommended due to the sandy soil in places.

I hope you have the opportunity to experience this beautiful area.