The Merced River, after coursing its way through the Yosemite Valley, becomes calm and inviting as it flows through McConnell State Recreation Area. Towering cottonwoods and sycamores offer relief from the dry heat of the central San Joaquin Valley. Where the Merced passes through George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area, visitors are inspired to take advantage of a riparian habitat that offers fishing, swimming, rafting and other water-related activities. The two parks are about 20 miles from each other, and because of their proximity, they share essentially the same ecology. The native streamside habitat may be observed while rafting or canoeing down the river. The river flows slowly during the summer months, and there are limited access points. Allow plenty of time to relax and enjoy the scenery. McConnell State Recreation Area is a shady oasis, a small island of peace and quiet. Named after Thomas McConnell, a sheep rancher and pioneer who homesteaded the site in 1871, it offers year-round recreation. As the first state park in the San Joaquin Valley, this 74-acre recreation area opened in 1950. Several grassy fields offer youngsters ample room to play. While the low, easy summer flow of the Merced River is great for swimming, swimmers should watch out for deep holes. No lifeguard service is available. Anglers can fish for catfish, black bass and perch. A valid California sport-fishing license is required. The typical Central Valley climate can reach from 90 to as much as 105 degrees in the summer, with mild spring and fall temperatures. In winter the weather can drop to below freezing. The average annual rainfall is 12 inches.