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Embrace The Wild West In Madera County

Events, Gold Panning, Museums & Historical Tours, 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.

Chowchilla Western Stampede

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 62nd Chowchilla Western Stampede, the cattle drive strolls down Robertson Boulevard on Friday, March 8th. 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 Sunday March 10th. Can’t make it this weekend? No problem the rodeo hosts a few more action-packed events the next weekend like futurity, Derby & Open Barrel races happening on Friday March 15th through the 17th.


Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

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 fell of what mountain life was like during the early years of California's history.

Shay #10Jenny Railcars

Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree

Typically the first weekend in July, the annual Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree in North Fork pays tribute to the loggers of times past & 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! 

Axe Throwing at the Mid-Sierra Loggers JamboreeHot Saw Competition at the Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree

Coarsegold Historic Village & Rodeo

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 on May 3rd and 4th 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.


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.

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.

VISIT YOSEMITE | MADERA COUNTY

Main Visitors Center
40343 Highway 41,
Oakhurst, CA 93644
(559) 683-4636
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Chowchilla Visitors Center
at the Fossil Discovery
Center of Madera County
19450 Avenue 21-1/2
Chowchilla, CA 93610
(Exit 164, off Highway 99)
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