Clark Fork Recreation Area

Tuolumne County, California

Explore the rivers and mountains along the Clark Fork.

The Clark Fork Recreation Area

Fishing, Horseback Riding, Camping

Clark Fork

The Clark Fork road leaves Highway 108, the Sonora Pass Highway, 46 miles east of Sonora at an elevation of 5,600 feet, leading into the Clark Fork Recreation Area. The road parallels the Clark Fork for 9 miles before ending at Iceberg Meadow at the edge of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness at an elevation of 6,100 feet.

Three National Forest campgrounds, a picnic area, and several private camps are located along the road. A fourth campground is located just outside the Clark Fork drainage at Fence Creek. The campgrounds are usually open from the beginning of fishing season in late April until the end of October.

map of Clark Fork

Fishing and Hiking on the Clark Fork


The Clark Fork is well known for its great fishing. Easy access to the river can be found in many places along the 9 miles of the Clark Fork road. Some of the best fishing holes are in places where the road veers away from the river. A short hike can take you to those less often fished spots.

From Iceberg Meadow there is a trail which parallels the Clark Fork for miles. The first several miles of the river above Iceberg Meadow offer good fishing in pockets and riffles.

For more information about fishing on the Clark Fork visit Dave's Sierra Fishing at Clark Fork Fishing.


St. Mary's Pass

Upper Clark Fork and St. Mary's Pass

A number of good trails lead out of the Clark Fork area. Only the trail following the river upstream out of Iceberg Meadow could be classified as fairly easy. It passes through shaded forest while almost always within earshot of the river. For the first two miles it climbs at a gentle grade, gaining only 500 feet. From there the trail continues up the Clark Fork for another 7 miles to Saint Mary's Pass, climbing nearly 3,000 feet. The trail to Boulder Lake diverges from the Clark Fork trail after two miles and climbs another two miles to the secluded lake.

The Disaster Creek trail leads north out of Iceberg Meadow, following the tumbling water of Disaster Creek. Several meadows along the way make good turn-around points. Ambitious hikers could push all the way up to Highland Lakes off the Ebbetts Pass highway, a 7.5-mile, 2000 foot climb.

The Arnot Creek trail begins at a trailhead near Camp Liahona. One spur of the trail leads up under the shadow of the Dardanelles and eventually on to Spicer Reservoir, 8 miles in distance. Another spur of the trail follows Arnot Creek up to its headwaters and eventually ending at Highland Lakes (8 miles).


Historic Sites

Emigrant Route of the 1841 Bidwell-Bartleson Party

In 1841 the first overland emigrants to California wound their way through the Sierra Nevada and eventually down Disaster Creek to Iceberg Meadow on the Clark Fork. With no maps to guide them, they followed the Clark Fork to its convergance with the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River and then continued along its north side, staying high on the mountain well above the river. Finally they worked their way to lower elevations, crossed to the south and descended into the San Joaquin Valley.

The Sonora and Mono Wagon Road

the Patterson Grade

Patterson Grade on the Sonora and Mono Road

The original survey line for the Sonora and Mono Wagon Road of the 1860s led up the Clark Fork, following it to its headwaters at Saint Mary's Pass, and then descending into the summit valley before crossing Sonora Pass. One of the road commissioners who scouted out this route was William Clark of Tuolumne County, for whom the Clark Fork is named. A pack trail along the route saw considerable use in the early 1860s. Before the road was constructed, however, the commissioners discovered what they considered to be a better route up Deadman Creek, the course of today's Highway 108 follows. The Clark Fork route was abandoned, but the pack trail became the boundry line between Alpine and Tuolumne counties.

A well-known portion of the Sonora and Mono Wagon Road was the Patterson Grade which descends from the Donnell Overlook to the Clark Fork Road. John Danforth Patterson was the foreman in charge of road construction. The steep grade was cut out of the mountainside. Today's highway follows a line above the Patterson Grade. In the early years of automobiles many drivers were reluctant to attempt the Patterson Grade and would hire locals to pilot their cars up or down the hill.


Clark Fork Campgrounds

Clark Fork Campground

The Clark Fork Campground is 6 miles from the turnoff on Highway 108, close to many recreation opportunities. The large campground is divided into two loops (A and B). Loop A has 28 sites with piped water and pit toilets. Loop B has flush toilets and 60 sites. Each site is $20 per nite. At one time they offered hot showers, but these may no longer be in operation. A RV dump station is located near the entrance to the campgrounds. The Clark Fork Campground is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Iceberg Meadow

Iceberg Meadow

Clark Fork Horse Camp

The Clark Fork Horse Camp is situated next to the Clark Fork Campground (see above). As its name implies, this camp is reserved for campers with horses. The cost is $17 for a single site, $30 for the small group area, and $60 for the large area. There is no piped water. The facility has vault toilets. The campground is on a first-come, first-served basis. Horseback riders will find numerous recreation riding trails in the area.

Sand Flat Campground

Sand Flat Campground is 6.5 miles up the Clark Fork Road from Highway 108. It is situated along the bank of the Clark Fork with 15 walk-in type camp sites close to the river and 53 tent or RV sites. Each site costs $19 per night. Water comes from old fashion hand pumps. The campground has vault toilets. Sand Flat Campground is on a first-come, first-served basis. Campers will find recreation opportunities abound in the area. Evening campfires are popular at Sand Flat Campground.

Fence Creek Campground

The Fence Creek Campground is on a dirt road that splits off from the Clark Fork Road less than a mile from Highway 108. Once on the dirt road watch for the entrance to Fence Creek Campground soon on your right. It is at an elevation of 5,800'. The 38 camp sites have no piped water. The campground has vault toilets. The cost is $10 per night.

For more about the campgrounds, see Clark Fork Campgrounds


Private Camps

Camp Peaceful Pines

Camp Peaceful Pines is an independent, charitable, non-profit corporation and is affiliated with the Pacific Southwest District of the Church of the Brethren. The camp is operated under a special use permit from the Stanislaus National Forest. The camp has a main lodge, dining, hall, cabins, and restrooms. Among their summer sessions are family camps and camps designed for youths of various ages.
Camp Peaceful Pines, 2301 Woodland Ave., Modesto CA 95358-9501

Camp Liahona

Camp Liahona began in 1950. It is operated by the Liahona Club in affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Liahona Club operates three camps in the northern Sierra Nevada. The Club provides these camps every summer for young women activities through the Young Women's Camping Program.
Liahona Club, PO Box 4911, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-0911