Only a 45-minute drive north of Fresno is Bass Lake, long a favorite outdoors recreation area for residents of the San Joaquin Valley. Sure, fishing, kayaking and boating activities abound if they are your thing. But if you are looking for a way to get some activities and learn a little more about the Sierra Nevada foothills’ past, then consider hiking around this area of Madera County. One hike well worth the time if you happen to travel through this region is Brown’s Ditch Trail. More of a walk than a strenuous hike, this trail gives you a less on California’s past, when resources seemed endless and no one thought about potential problems such as deforestation.

This area was once important to local logging operations. As the story goes, one local company that harvested timber in the area polluted the reservoir, which previously was a vast meadow. After litigation, the company was ordered to restock the lake as most of it the fish had been killed by pollution. The chosen replacement fish was bass, hence the name. Currently the lake, which is an important hydropower center, is operated by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

Brown’s Ditch is a short drive from the lake along Road 274. Parking is available on one side of the road, and you can see where you can start your hike. AllTrails has the best information about the hike and maps on both its web site and smartphone app. The hike is about 2.5 miles each way; depending on what time of year, be sure you start the trek early – and the chances are high that you will have the trail to yourself.

The flumes that once allowed logs to scoot down the foothills before they were processed into lumber are still there. But now most of them are covered with walkways to allow for easy navigating by PG&E maintenance workers. Yes, the signs say “No Trespassing,” but that did not seem to stop us and others traipsing along this trail. Dogs are apparently welcome, but keep in mind the walkways are hard on the paws . . . so you will either have walk alongside the flumes and walkways, or in the case of my little guy, he had to be carried for much of the distance.

Dog or no dog, you are definitely rewarded at the end of the hike, where there is a small dam creating a pool that certainly looks inviting enough for a quick dip. This is a great place to have lunch, decompress, or in my case, just take a nap. So if you are looking for an excursion while visiting this corner of the Golden State, but do not have the time to go into one of the nearby national parks, check out Brown’s Ditch – then reward yourself with lunch at the Bass Lake resort area or in nearby North Fork.

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Image credits: Leon Kaye

Bass Lake, Browns Ditch Trail, hiking, travel, timber, deforestation, dogs, Leon Kaye, Sierra Foothills

Just be sure you've got your sense of balance

Bass Lake, Browns Ditch Trail, hiking, travel, timber, deforestation, dogs, Leon Kaye, Sierra Foothills

The views of the Sierra foothills are sublime

Bass Lake, Browns Ditch Trail, hiking, travel, timber, deforestation, dogs, Leon Kaye, Sierra Foothills

These old logging flumes one were responsible for deforestation in the Sierras

Bass Lake, Browns Ditch Trail, hiking, travel, timber, deforestation, dogs, Leon Kaye, Sierra Foothills

The beauty of this hike is that it is mostly level

Bass Lake, Browns Ditch Trail, hiking, travel, timber, deforestation, dogs, Leon Kaye, Sierra Foothills

Keep focused and enjoy the scenery

Bass Lake, Browns Ditch Trail, hiking, travel, timber, deforestation, dogs, Leon Kaye, Sierra Foothills

I had to carry him, but it was a great day for both of us

Bass Lake, Browns Ditch Trail, hiking, travel, timber, deforestation, dogs, Leon Kaye, Sierra Foothills

Occasional wildflowers are in bloom

Bass Lake, Browns Ditch Trail, hiking, travel, timber, deforestation, dogs, Leon Kaye, Sierra Foothills

The hike is about 5 miles round-trip

Bass Lake, Browns Ditch Trail, hiking, travel, timber, deforestation, dogs, Leon Kaye, Sierra Foothills

Evidence of past logging activities

Bass Lake, Browns Ditch Trail, hiking, travel, timber, deforestation, dogs, Leon Kaye, Sierra Foothills

The end - water you just want to plunge into

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.