Our name for the area is simply "The Panoche Valley".
It is a large area comprised of many different parcels - some private and some public (BLM). One thing you need to know is that much of the valley is private property, and you are restricted to the paved, public roads. Three exceptions are the BLM areas at Griswold Hills along the road up to New Idria and its mine, Panoche Hills near Mercey Hot Springs, and Tumey Hills along both sides of Panoche Road between the valley and I-5.
We go there for the wildlife. There are several unique bird species that migrate into and out of the valley, in addition to a wide range of birds common to this unique area of California. For example, Roadrunners are seen on almost every trip. Other wildlife is also common, seeing coyotes, bobcats, deer is the rule rather than the exception. We have also seen the Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard, an American Badger, and a Long-tailed Weasel, San Joaquin Kit Fox.
A real pleasure to me also is the "sense of space" that the Panoche Valley provides. Huge vistas, ever-changing skies, grass rolling in the breeze. This is a place where you can get away from civilization.
Mercey Hot Springs is well worth visiting for the nominal charge that the private landowner charges. It has hot springs for bathing, a few cabins, a camping area. For birders, its best known as a very reliable area to see Long-eared Owls as they roost in the trees on the property. At times, I've seen 15 in one outing.
Finally, this entire area is noted for its fossil records - both vertebrate and invertebrate. My daughter-in-law found the best shell fossil I've seen found just lying alongside the road up to New Idria. Vertebrate fossils are protected, invertebrate can be collected without any permit requirements.
The best time to go is late Spring when the valley is green and temperatures warm. Summer temperature are hot, often over 100 degrees. Fall before seasonal rains the valley is usually fairly desolate and wildlife scarce.
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