News and Information
for residents and visitors
Three Rivers,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks,
Lemon Cove and Woodlake
Kaweah Kam



In the News - Friday, SEPTEMBER 9, 2005


What are the odds?
Floodwaters, fire are

Kaweah Country’s

high-risk factors

   Nearing the 50th anniversary of the December 1955 flood that isolated Three Rivers and caused several feet of water to inundate Woodlake and Visalia, managers at Lake Kaweah now say only a “biblical” event could cause that kind of flooding.
   The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina has all of America and people around the world asking how and why an event of this magnitude could happen. If U.S. government agencies were slow to respond to a natural disaster, what would happen in the aftermath of another terrorist attack? If a local disaster was imminent, are we prepared?
   It’s difficult questions like these that are being asked in communities all across America and here in Three Rivers, where we face different dangers than the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region.
   Is local flooding like what occurred in New Orleans possible in Kaweah Country? According to one expert, the dangers here are different, but not to be taken lightly.

  “It’s a completely different world back there, but as to local flooding in general, I would answer not here, but we do stand a chance of major flooding in the Delta area of the San Joaquin Valley,” said Phil Deffenbaugh, general manager of Lake Kaweah.
   In fact, the entire San Joaquin Valley is low-lying, Deffenbaugh said, so there exists a serious danger of flooding. A levee break a couple of years ago caused extensive damage to farmland and businesses and only recently did the State of California reach a settlement that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
   As to the possibility of whether the Kaweah River drainage could expect another flood like 1955 Deffenbaugh said now the playing field has been changed. That’s why Terminus Dam was built in 1962 and, in 2003, the basin and the spillway were enlarged and improved.

  “As to the likelihood of another ’55 flood, I’d say the short answer is no,” Deffenbaugh said. “We built these new fusegates to withstand the worst-possible scenario so the possibility of a major flood below the dam is no longer a likely event.”
   But above Lake Kaweah in Three Rivers, he said, and in other areas in California, we should be prepared for something different than what the folks in the Gulf region have experienced.

  “Here we could have fires, earthquakes, and low-lying coastal areas could possibly experience a tsunami,” Deffenbaugh said. “In Three Rivers, look at where you live and work. If you have [river] rocks and sand, then your home or business could experience flooding.”
   One lesson we should all learn from the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina is that now more than ever we need to be prepared.

  “Be ready with stores of water and food,” Deffenbaugh said. “With only one road in and out of town, it wouldn’t take all that much to be cut off for a time.”
   Deffenbaugh said a number of Army Corps personnel from Sacramento, including three from Lake Kaweah, have been dispatched to help in New Orleans.

  “Right now the pumps are running and the elevation of the water in the city is dropping,” Deffenbaugh said. “If you live in New Orleans, you live below sea level. They have been asking for funding for years back there to improve the system of dikes, knowing that flooding like this was a possibility.”
   Deffenbaugh said that representatives from the Red Cross will have a special booth at the annual Public Lands Day at Lake Kaweah planned for Saturday, Sept. 24.

  “In our souls, we all want to help,” Deffenbaugh said, “and the Red Cross is a good place to start.”
   In other Katrina news, Sequoia-Kings Canyon’s chief ranger is the incident commander of the National Incident Management Team, charged with overseeing the overall National Park Service response to the hurricane. The command post has been located in Houston, Texas, for the past week, but will be moving to Thibodaux, La., this weekend.

50 years ago
’55 flood memories sought

   On Dec. 23, 1955, a natural disaster of historic proportions occurred when the Kaweah River flooded due to heavy rain. In Three Rivers, bridges washed out, houses were washed away or caught fire, pets and farm animals drowned, and hundreds of residents were stranded. Lemon Cove, Woodlake, Exeter, Visalia, and other low-lying communities also suffered the Kaweah’s wrath, and the cry to dam the river was heeded.
   Although no lives were lost, there was tremendous hardship, property loss, harrowing moments, and heroic actions that occurred during this epic flood.
   In December 2005, The Kaweah Commonwealth will publish an issue commemorating the 50th anniversary of this local disaster. In addition to documenting the history of this great flood, we will publish the memoirs of those who were there.
   Anyone with a memory or recollection of the ‘55 flood are invited to share their story. Historic photographs are also being collected.
   Please submit written memoirs to The Kaweah Commonwealth via mail (P.O. Box 806), email (, or drop off at the newspaper office (41841 Sierra Drive).
   Photos may be scanned and emailed, but the highest resolution possible should be retained. Photos may also be brought to the Commonwealth office.
   As with any submission, please include a contact name and phone number in case we need to get in touch.

Federal flags

at half-staff

   Flags at local post offices, in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and other federal facilities are at half-staff for 10 days in tribute to the Honorable Mr. William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who died Saturday, Sept. 3.
   All flags should also be flown at half-staff Sunday, Sept. 11, in honor of Patriot Day, a national observance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Park plans Giant Forest burn
Smoke possible in Three Rivers

   National Park Service fire crews plan to begin ignitions on the “Quarry Prescribed Fire” today (Friday, Sept. 9), pending San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District approval. That approval was expected to be received by the end of the workday Thursday, Sept. 8, according to Jody Lyle, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks fire information officer.
   The 352-acre burn unit is located east of the General Sherman Tree between the Alta Trail and the Wolverton Road. Firefighters will use handheld drip torches to ignite the fire over several days.
   Three Rivers residents and visitors will be able to see smoke from the burn when looking up-canyon toward Moro Rock. Upslope breezes during the day will most likely take the smoke into the higher elevations, but at night, the winds change direction and will carry the smoke down the Kaweah canyon to Three Rivers.

  “Throughout the project, fire managers will work closely with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to manage smoke production and reduce local impacts,” reported Jody.
   Trail closures in effect until further notice include the Alta Trail between the Congress Loop and the Long Meadow Loop and the Wolverton Cutoff Trail between Wolverton Road and the High Sierra Trail.
   The popular Congress Loop will remain open, but any area trail could be closed at any time if fire managers deem there may be a risk to hikers’ safety.
   All park roads will remain open, although the Park Service advises that drivers use caution within the fire area and watch for firefighters, equipment, or pockets of smoke.
   Other prescribed fires planned for Fall 2005 include a 1,500-acre burn in the Mineral King area and a burn within the park boundary at the end of North Fork Drive.
   For park fire information, visit:

Cooler weather

by this weekend

   Last month’s triple-digit temperatures, that seemed never-ending and almost unbearable at times this summer, have finally given way in early September to daytime highs in the lower 90s.
   This weekend, cooler temperatures — with highs in the lower 80s — are in the offing and perhaps even the first measurable precipitation of the year will be felt before the month is out.
   This past week, high pressure lingering above the entire western region produced moderating temperatures near normal in most areas.
   At 7,000 feet in the nearby mountains, daytime highs barely reached 70 while nighttime lows dipped to near freezing, a sure sign that a seasonal change is just around the corner.
   A low-pressure trough approaching Central California today (September 9) will bring the cooler air but no immediate rain. There is, however, a better than average chance to experience a dusting of snow in the higher elevations, and a shower in the foothills, with each passing day.
   The approaching fall season makes for excellent camping conditions in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The crowds and the insects are gone and the landscape is splashed with spectacular color.
   Due to a wetter than normal spring that had rivers and creeks nearly impassable until August, many of the parks’ best backcountry fisheries received little or no visitors. That means that plenty of hungry trout are lurking for those anglers willing to take a hike.
   At Lake Kaweah, the annual drain-off is nearly complete. As of Thursday, Sept. 8, the pool elevation was 598.17 with 18,845 acre-feet of storage. Compare these recent statistics with June 22, 2005, when the peak storage was 184,963 acre-feet with a pool elevation of 714.69. By any measurement, less than three months, that’s a lot of water under the bridge.

Tower of power

   Kaweah Powerhouse No. 2, located on Kaweah River Drive in Three Rivers, marks a milestone in local history this year with a century of operation. Completed in 1905, the facility’s intake is one of three installations that utilize the flow of the Kaweah River to generate electricity.
   Together, the local hydroelectric facilities can generate enough power for 5,000 homes. Originally built and maintained by the Mount Whitney Power and Electric Company, the company was purchased by Southern California Edison in 1917.

Rescue teams

remain busy

in the parks

   Two major searches in Sequoia-Kings Canyon were initiated on Wednesday, Aug. 31, both with happy endings. This is good news for local Park Service rescuers, who have been besieged this summer with tragic endings.
   In fact, as of the end of August, 10 people have died this year in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
   The most recent death was in the Roaring River Falls area of Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon National Park. On August 31, park rangers received a report of a person in the river at about 4:30 p.m.
They arrived at the scene and found that a family member had pulled the victim from the water. CPR and advanced lifesaving support were provided, but the man, identified as Leon Caraco, 53, of Huntington Beach, was pronounced dead at the scene.
   The cause of death is under investigation.
   Also during the afternoon of August 31, Gerald Brown, 60, of Clemens, N.C., was reported missing by his hiking party after they were separated in the Black Rock Pass area of Sequoia. He was spotted the next morning by a search helicopter at Little Five Lakes in good health.
   About this same time, Rose Amend, 20, of Visalia was reported missing after she failed to return to her car after climbing in the Chimney Rock area of Kings Canyon National Park. After 26 hours, Amend was found, off-trail and lost, but in good health.

VIPs wanted for

sheriff’s academy

   The Tulare County Sheriff’s Department is offering an academy for its Volunteers in Patrol (VIPs) program, beginning Saturday, Sept. 24, and continuing each Saturday through October 22.
   The VIPs, which has an active, local Three Rivers group, helps support local sheriff’s deputies.

  “In Three Rivers, the VIPs’ duties include patrolling as an extra set of eyes for the Sheriff’s Department,” said Ken Greenspan, a VIP from Three Rivers. “We also check on disabled and elderly residents, do house checks for vacationing residents, and help with traffic control and other duties at car accidents, fires, and other emergencies.”
   Three Rivers volunteers also have the option of patrolling in other areas of the county and assisting with the day-to-day activities at the Sheriff’s headquarters, the crime lab, and other law-enforcement sites.
   It is estimated that the countywide volunteer program saves the Sheriff’s Department about $500,000 annually.
   The upcoming academy will consist of training at a Visalia and a Porterville site. Free bus service will be offered from Visalia to Porterville and visa versa.
   VIP applications are available at the Three Rivers Post Office. A background check and short interview are also required.
   For more information, contact the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department or local VIP Clancy Blakemore, 561-4435.

Youth soccer league

now being formed

   The Three Rivers Recreation Committee is currently registering kids for the annual fall soccer league.
   There will be two age divisions — first though third grades and fourth grade and older.
   Parents may sign their children up for the league in the Three Rivers School office during normal business hours. The cost to play is $20 per child.
   The schedule will be determined according to how many players register. For more information or to apply for the activity director position, call 561-4014 561-3363.

Preschool enrollments underway

   Three Rivers families will soon have a local option once again for their children’s early educational development. Not since the Bearable Childcare center closed several years ago has there been a Three Rivers preschool in operation.
   Built specifically as a daycare center, the Bearable facility, located behind the Valley Oak Credit Union, has been leased by Suguey Moreno of Porterville. Now called “Bugzu Early Childhood Education Preschool,” the facility is currently enrolling preschool to school-age children.
   The hours of the school will be an unprecedented 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily, including weekends. Never before have parents in Three Rivers had so many days and hours from which to choose for their children’s professional care and early education.
   The school will offer meals and snacks for children from 18 months and older. The curriculum will consist of learning activities in a variety of mediums throughout the day.
   The school’s license is currently pending. For more information or to pre-enroll a child, leave a message at 784-3755 or (661) 201-3445.



ARTS CENTER: Local residents

are heirs to this humble home

   It is one of the oldest homes in Three Rivers, built around the turn of the 20th century. And, for such an unassuming structure, it has a tale just waiting to be told of a famous lineage as well as more than 100 years of ownership that led it to what it is today — the Three Rivers Arts Center, located just across the North Fork Drive bridge from Highway 198.


   On Jan. 28, 1817, John “Jack” Coffee Hays was born at Cedar Lick, Tenn. When he was 15, his parents died and Jack began his westward journey.
   He served in the Texas Army during the Texas War of Independence (1832-1836). During the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), he commanded the 1st Regiment of Texas Volunteers.
   Since 1836, Jack had been a Texas Ranger, protecting the frontier borders against invasions from Mexico and protecting outlying Texas settlers from raiding Indians. By the time he was 30, he was a colonel. Today, he is regarded as one of the best who ever rode.
   On April 28, 1847, Jack married Susan “Sarah” Calvert in Sequin, Texas. In 1849, the family joined the Gold Rush to California, settling in the San Francisco area on an 800-acre ranch they named “Fernwood,” which is where present-day U.C. Berkeley is now located.
   Jack was the first sheriff of San Francisco, elected in 1850. He held that position for four years.
   In 1853, President Franklin Pierce appointed him U.S. Surveyor General of California. In that capacity, he is credited with the development of the city of Oakland on land he owned and was the city’s first resident.
   Though he was neutral during the Civil War, he was prominent in Democratic politics in California. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1876.
   Jack died April 25, 1883, and he is buried in the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.
   Hays County in south-central Texas is named in his honor. He has also been inducted into Texas Ranger Hall of Fame.
   Jack and Sarah had six children — all but two died in childhood — and the eldest being John Caperton Hays.

CA. 1850-1912

   John Caperton Hays was born in San Francisco to John Coffee Hays and Susan Calvert Hays. He was educated in the East, but returned to California to live and work.
   John Hays married Anna McMullin, who was born in Sacramento and educated in Baltimore. She was the daughter of Captain John McMullin, who, like John Coffee Hays was a native of Tennessee and, later, a member of the famous Texas Rangers.
   Anna’s father also established the McMullin ranches, which had vast holdings throughout the San Joaquin Valley.
   John Caperton Hays was the cousin of brothers William H. and John Hays Hammond. William Hammond, in partnership with Ben Maddox and Albert Wishon, first proposed the idea of harnessing the power of the Kaweah River to produce electricity for Visalia and other Central Valley communities.
   John Hays Hammond was a world-renowned mining engineer residing in London who supplied half of the initial investment required for the project and introduced his brother to London financier Leopold Hirsch, who contributed the rest of the capital.
   John and Anna Hays were already residing in Tulare County part-time, having cattle-ranching and farming interests. In 1899, John was appointed treasurer of the newly-created Mount Whitney Power and Electric Company (present-day Southern California Edison), which was based in Three Rivers and Visalia.
   Soon after, the couple built their home along North Fork Drive overlooking the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River.
   Anna McMullin Hays was a member of the Bay Area’s Town and Country Club, the Woman’s Athletic Club, the Ebell Club and, later, a charter member of the Three Rivers Woman’s Club. John and Anna had two sons — John Coffee Hays and Harry T. Hays — both of whom were born in Tulare County and educated in Oakland.
   The younger John C. Hays became an electrical engineer and represented the interests of John Hays Hammond in the U.S., serving as president of the Mt. Whitney Power and Electric Company for several years. In 1914, he established an office in San Francisco until World War I, when he entered the service as engineer and construction quartermaster with the rank of major. He was released from active duty in 1919 and moved to New York.
   For eight years, Harry Hays (born May 8, 1884) was a purchasing agent for the Mount Whitney Power and Electric Company. In 1916, he went to work at Standard Oil Company, for a year in Los Angeles, then for the rest of his career in San Francisco as superintendent of service stations.
   John Caperton Hays died in December 1912. Anna McMullin Hays died in 1924.
   Since the Hays sons were both living elsewhere when their mother passed away, they deeded the home to an organization near and dear to her heart — the Three Rivers Woman’s Club — for “as long as the club should care to use it.”


CLUBHOUSE, 1925-1965
   The Woman’s Club, which was founded in 1916, formerly had held meetings in members’ homes and were thrilled to have a clubhouse to call their own. All proceeds from events held in the building — dinners, dances, card parties, sewing circles, musicals, art exhibits, and the popular Pioneer Dinner, and highly-anticipated Heirloom Tea — were used for remodeling and upkeep.
   The former home soon became the social and civic hub of the community. The local chamber of commerce, Lions Club, 4-H Club, and Boy Scouts also used the clubhouse for their meetings.
   Over the years, the clubhouse was remodeled and enlarged with all improvements funded by the Three Rivers Woman’s Club. The maintenance on the aging facility seemed to be never-ending and, in 1962, when the new Memorial Building was built in Three Rivers, the Woman’s Club began holding its meetings at that locale.
   Discussions began the next year about what to do with the building. A youth center was proposed, and a building committee was formed to research the possibility of modernizing the structure.
   The home proved too big of a project for the club to maintain and, in 1965, after 40 years as the Three Rivers Woman’s Clubhouse, it was returned to the Hays heirs.

   John Holden (1922-1995) moved to Three Rivers from Porterville, where he was a member of the theatre arts department and a journalism and communications instructor at the community college. He was also a staunch supporter of and participant in the performing arts.
   In Three Rivers, he had a dream of a community center that was specifically for promotion of the arts. To that end, he purchased the historic Hays home (ca. 1970) and the Three Rivers Arts Center was born.
   John produced an annual festival of classical music and organized lectures, readings, plays, and other cultural events. He was also a member of the Three Rivers Players, a local community-theatre group, and the Three Rivers Arts Center became the group’s unofficial home.
   A stage was erected that could accommodate either indoor or outdoor audiences. In the yard alongside and behind the building, local architectural sculptor Adrian Gregori Green created a courtyard reminiscent of the Renaissance period with huge gates on iron hinges; symbolic sculptures, carvings, and fountains; and tiered stones and wooden bleachers for seating.

   Following the death of John Holden in 1995, the Three Rivers Arts Center remained open to the public for small-venue, local events, but there was no upkeep or maintenance of the building.
   That is, until the summer of 2000, when new life was breathed into the facility by a new crop of Three Rivers Players members. The building was purchased by the theatre group and a contractor hired to renovate the building from its termite-ridden floor to leaky roof.
   And although performances by the Three Rivers Players in recent years have been few, the rustic facility continues to be maintained and hosts several events a year from plant sales to art shows to musicals and plays.
   In Three Rivers, where so many of the earliest homes have been destroyed by fire or simply fallen into disrepair, the Three Rivers Arts Center is a both a remnant of the past and a promise for the future.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
OFFICE: 41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, California
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
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