Walking the historic Browns Ditch

Mountain Secrets

editorial@sierrastar.comMay 27, 2014 

Here is an easy hiking adventure that will take you back in time by walking historic Browns Ditch located at the east end of Bass Lake.

For many years I personally have ignored this hike because of the many trails at higher elevations, but over the Memorial Day weekend I was searching through my collection of hiking trails looking for a conditioning hike. I need something to help get my legs in top condition before beginning my upcoming four day adventure west of Tuolumne Meadows.

While searching through my file cabinet I came across an adventure senior and beginning hikers enjoy — Browns Ditch. This is a five mile hike and located only 25 minutes from my home.

Follow Bass Lake Road (222) to Malum Ridge Road (274) that skirts along the north shore of Bass Lake. Continue to Central Camp Road at the east end of the lake and park on the right side of Road 274.

I'll start my lope hike following Central Camp Road for .09 of a mile before following a dirt road to the right. Ignore the many side spurs along this road and you will cross Browns Ditch twice, but stay on the main dirt road.

As I followed the road to Browns Creek, running parallel to the creek on the left is a huge exposed flat rock. On its surface are American Indian grinding holes.

Next you will cross under a portion of a historic water flume, but continue to roads end and here is the diversion dam and intake for Browns Ditch. At this point I'll follow the ditch back to the parking area to complete the lope.

Browns Ditch is a ditch/flume that PG&E built in 1915 to divert water from Browns Creek to Bass Lake. This historic flume will switch from a cement ditch to an elevated flume crossing the many canyons on its two mile journey. A two foot graded metal walkway extends the length on top of each flume. They vary in length from 50 feet to 150 yards. They resemble the old railroad trestles, but on a smaller scale.

Not only am I walking on history, but I did take the time to look at the surrounding landscape. To the east are deep tree-covered canyons leading toward North Fork. The northern mountains are still boasting the reflections from the seasonal streams cascading to the valley floor. Interesting how this route creates its own tunnel through the branches of the surrounding pine and oak trees.

This could be a two hour lope, but if you like to explore and grab a few photos, figure two and a half hours for this easy adventure.

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