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Embrace the Wild West
in Madera County
Blog Embrace the Wild West in Madera County
Alex Silgalis | 03/04/2019Events, Gold Panning, Museums, History & Culture, Road Trip, Sports, Train Riding |   

Madera, which means “wood” in Spanish, has a rich & colorful history around the gold rush. A logging industry relic, Madera County has transformed itself into a tourism gateway not just to Yosemite National Park but to adventure in the great outdoors. Here’s a small introduction to some of the Wild West experience that can be had in Madera County.

The sound of mooing. The sight of a large mass of animals rumbling through Chowchilla. There’s nothing more “Wild West” than a cattle drive. Kicking off the Chowchilla Western Stampede, the cattle drive strolls down Robertson Boulevard on a Friday, in early March. This sets the stage for the multi-event rodeo extravaganza where cowboys & cowgirls vie for the coveted belt buckle as well as cash prizes through the weekend. The rodeo hosts a few more action-packed events like futurity, Derby & Open Barrel races the following weekend.

Just about 4 miles from Yosemite's Southern entrance in Fish Camp is the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. This California historic landmark, founded in 1965, offers you a chance to experience train history in action. Hop on board the narrow-gauge rail car hitched up to one of two Shay steam locomotives and ride your way into an era from California’s past. The four-mile round-trip scenic excursion through the Sierra National Forest provides a glimpse into what logging was like in the Sierra Nevada during its heyday around the turn of the 20th century.  Stop on in the Thornberry museum or let the kids pan for gold to further get a feel of what mountain life was like during the early years of California's history.

Typically the first weekend in July, the annual Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree in North Fork pays tribute to the loggers of times past and to those still keeping the tradition alive. For more than half a century, local and national loggers gather to appreciate and honor the loggers’ craft through contests like axe throwing, double hand bucking, choker setting and hot power sawing.  The skill and athleticism displayed will amaze you! The two-day event has both amateur and professional groups so anyone can enter. For those who want to try their hand at axe throwing outside of this competitive arena or want to hone their skills in preparation for it, make sure to stop by local champion Nate Hodges' place in Oakhurst, Yosemite Axe Throwing.  You may even be able to get throwing tips from the champ himself! 

Ladies Stock Power Saw Competition

Ladies Stock Power Saw

Just south of Oakhurst is the small town of Coarsegold. Named for the coarse nuggets discovered nearby in 1849, it was the site of the southernmost strikes of the 1849 Gold Rush. For more than a hundred years, the rush of travelers to Yosemite has done little to change the historic village. As such, it makes for a perfect place to host the annual Coarsegold Rodeo. Happening at the Bohna Arena typically the first weekend in May, it features exciting competitions such as bareback bronc riding, barrel racing, and steer wrestling. If you’re anywhere near Coarsegold we recommend you making a pit stop and seeing this awesome showcase of Wild West fun.

Coarsegold Rodeo, Rodeo Royalty, Western

Rodeo Royalty

While you shouldn’t live in the past, you can darn well tootin’ take a trip back in time to experience what the Wild West in Madera County was like. From logging to gold mining to ranching, Madera is filled with enough Old West adventure for the ENTIRE family to enjoy.


Like what you see? Save any (or all) of these pins to your travel planning/inspiration board(s) to give you an easy way to find your way back here!  Also check out our other itineraries as well as blog posts for more ideas and pins!

Alex Silgalis

Alex founded localfreshies.com® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

Our annual Visit Yosemite | Madera County Visitors Guide can answer all your questions about visiting California's Gateway to Yosemite. From the park itself to the museums, wineries, art galleries and more throughout Madera County, our guide can help you plan the perfect vacation. Please note that we mail to the USA only, but anyone can download the guide.
Visit Yosemite - Madera County
Oakhurst Visitor Center, 40343 Highway 41, Oakhurst, CA 93644
(559) 683-4636
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