city, seat (1872) of Merced county, central California, U.S. It is situated on Bear Creek in the San Joaquin Valley, about 55 miles (90 km) northwest of Fresno. It was founded in 1872 by the Central Pacific Railroad and was named for the Nuestra Senora de la Merced (Spanish: "Our Lady of Mercy") River. It developed as a processing and shipping point for agricultural produce of the valley, irrigated by the Tri-Dam Project, 18 miles (29 km) northeast. There is some light manufacturing, chiefly metal fabrication and fibreglass-boat construction. The city is the site of a campus (2005) of the University of California and a community college (1962). Castle Air Museum, located on the former site of Castle Air Force Base (1946-95), houses a large collection of vintage military aircraft. Lake Yosemite is 7 miles (11 km) northeast, Yosemite National Park 45 miles (72 km) northeast, and Merced National Wildlife Refuge 16 miles (26 km) southwest. Inc. 1889. Pop. (1990) city, 56,216; Merced MSA, 178,403; (2000) city, 63,893; Merced MSA, 210,554.
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