News and Information
for residents and visitors
of KAWEAH COUNTRY —
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Lemon Cove and Woodlake
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THREE RIVERS AT A GLANCE
DESTINATION: THREE RIVERS
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Three Rivers — the gateway community to Sequoia National Park — is one of the most scenic locales in all of California. The four distinct seasons create a desirable climate for year-round living. Located at the entrance to California’s first and oldest national park, Three Rivers is conveniently located in the Sierra Nevada foothills halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The full-time population is 3,000 at the most, including outlying ranches and farms.
Three Rivers was settled in the 1860s as a ranching community with convenient access to summer pastures in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada. The town’s namesake is the three forks of the Kaweah River — Middle, North and South — which converge in Three Rivers. There are actually five waterways — including the East and Marble forks — which create the diverse and dramatic Kaweah canyon.
Three Rivers has two banks, five churches, a family-practice physician, two dentists, library, hardware store, veterinary services, and elementary school. There are two well-stocked grocery stores and several convenience stores to serve the daily needs of residents and visitors. There are restaurants specializing in fine dining or casual dining; several along the riverfront and with live music, much of which is local talent. Auto services and 24-hour gasoline are available to keep things running smoothly.
Tourism is the main industry of Three Rivers, which is located in an unincorporated area of Tulare County. The National Park Service is the largest employer. Lodging includes riverside inns, poolside motels, a range of bed-and-breakfast experiences, and campgrounds and RV parks. Residents include artists and craftspeople, shopkeepers, innkeepers, small-business professionals, retirees, commuters, ranchers and farmers.
THINGS TO DO
Three Rivers features crafts and artists’ galleries, theater and musical groups, and a weekly newspaper. There’s a world-famous candy store and many specialty gift stores that make shopping a pleasure.
Don’t miss a drive up North Fork Drive to the Kaweah Post Office for a glimpse into the past. The Kaweah Cooperative Colony was a utopian socialist experiment started in 1886. For several years it attracted international attention, and many settlers came to the area to further their ideals. Unable to secure title to the land, the organization ceased to exist after 1892, leaving as one of its tangible reminders the Kaweah Post Office, located three miles up North Fork Drive. The small wood-frame building was relocated to its present site in 1910. It has been designated a California State Historical Landmark.
For the physically active, there’s hiking and biking; rock-climbing, boating, swimming and fishing; and guided whitewater rafting.
There are dozens of service clubs and civic organizations, which sponsor many annual activities; a plant nursery; and organized hikes and walks.
Take a drive along the North or South Fork roads and enjoy pastoral scenes of contented cattle and horses munching grass, orchards and farms, oak trees and wildflowers, rivers and ponds, and beautiful rolling hillsides.
Three Rivers features an array of annual events. There are also impromptu barbecues, music festivals, and art exhibits year-round. Annual traditions include Jazzaffair, a jazz festival that draws thousands of visitors each April; the Redbud Arts and Crafts Festival each May; and Team Roping, a four-day event during the last full weekend in April, which keeps alive the local ranching heritage.
Three Rivers wildlife includes bear, deer, mountain lions, opossum, raccoons, skunks, fox, bobcats, coyotes, rabbits, and more. Bird life consists of, but is not limited to, eagles, hawks, ravens, quail, great blue herons, owls, blue jays, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, mourning doves, western bluebirds, and mallard ducks. The fish population includes bass, crappie, bluegill, carp, catfish and rainbow trout. Reptiles include lizards, frogs, toads, salamanders, turtles and several species of snakes including rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes are poisonous and deserve respect. They are defensive creatures that only bite if they feel threatened. Please appreciate the local wildlife, but don’t touch or disturb nature.
Ash Mountain (elev. 1,500 ft.)
Potwisha (elev. 2,000 ft.)
Hospital Rock (elev. 2,700 ft.)
Buckeye Flat (elev. 2,500 ft.)
Giant Forest (elev. 6,500 ft.)
Wolverton (elev. 7,000 ft.)
Lodgepole (elev. 6,700 ft.)
Wuksachi (elev. 7,000 ft.)
Dorst Creek (elev. 6,700 ft.)
Mineral King (elev. 7,800 ft.)
South Fork (elev. 3,500 ft.)
Stony Creek (elev. 6,600 ft.)
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Grant Grove (elev. 6,600 ft.)
Cedar Grove (elev. 4,600 ft.)
Sequoia National Park was established in 1890. It is the nation’s second oldest park (after Yellowstone, 1872) and California’s first. Kings Canyon National Park was established in 1940.
Within the boundaries of these two parks are the world’s largest trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum), the deepest canyon in America (Kings), and the highest mountain in the contiguous United States (Mt. Whitney, elevation 14,495 feet above sea level).
Planning your stay— More than 1,200 campsites and a variety of lodging accommodations are available. For camping information, call 559/565-3341. For lodging information in Sequoia, call toll-free 888/252-5757; Kings Canyon, 559/335-5500.
Dining and shopping— Delaware North Parks Services-Sequoia operates the dining concessions in Sequoia National Park. Full-service dining is available daily at Wuksachi Village; a deli and snack bar are at the Lodgepole Market Center.
Kings Canyon Park Services Company operates the food-service facilities in Kings Canyon National Park at Grant Grove and Cedar Grove. They also operate a restaurant at Stony Creek in Sequoia National Forest.
There are three markets and several souvenir and gift shops located in the parks.
Sights to see— Six miles above the Ash Mountain entrance station is Hospital Rock. Pictographs and 50 grinding holes are evidence of the occupation of Native Americans that lived in the area until the 1880s.
Crystal Cave is a spectacular specimen of the more than 100 caves located in the parks, the largest cave system in California. It is open for tours May - September). Tickets must be purchased in advance at the Foothills and Lodgepole visitor centers; tickets are not available at the cave.
Ascending Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park
Moro Rock is the large granite dome that can be seen directly up-canyon from Three Rivers. The quarter-mile trail to the top has nearly 400 steps. Once on top, the view is unparalleled of the Great Western Divide and the San Joaquin Valley.
Giant Forest is one of the most spectacular and accessible of the 30 groves of giant sequoias within the parks’ boundaries. With its beautiful meadows, blooming dogwood, and many miles of easy walking trails, it is Sequoia Park’s most famous and beautiful attraction.
The General Sherman Tree, at the north end of Giant Forest, is 2,300 to 2,700 years old and the world’s largest living thing.
Grant Grove, another beautiful grove of Big Trees, is home to the General Grant Tree, also known as “The Nation’s Christmas Tree.”
Kings Canyon was described by John Muir as “a rival to Yosemite.” It is sculpted by the beautiful Kings River.
Hiking and backpacking— An extensive network of trails transects the parks with options from handicapped-accessible nature walks, to easy and moderate day hikes, to extended backcountry travel. Trail information, maps, and guidebooks are available at park visitor centers — Foothills, Lodgepole, Grant Grove, Cedar Grove, and Mineral King. Park trail conditions and backcountry information may also be obtained by calling 559/565-3341.
A(lta ) to Z(umwalt):
Twenty things to do
Whether a visitor or a resident, here is some great stuff to do that maybe you haven’t thought of or taken the time for…
1. Alta Peak
It’s the peak that is seen directly up-canyon from Three Rivers. The peak, at 11,204 feet above sea level, is easily accessible via a 7.5-mile trail that begins at the Wolverton area in Sequoia National Park. The last mile to the top is the most challenging on the trail, but worth the effort. Allow an entire day for the roundtrip hike, take plenty of water, and pack a jacket because weather changes quickly on top of the world.
2. Crystal Cave
Even the underground is spectacular in Kaweah Country. Crystal Cave is located off the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park, about 14 miles from the Ash Mountain entrance. Tickets for the guided tours must be purchased in advance at the Foothills or Lodgepole visitor centers. For the tour schedule, call 565-3759.
3. Field Seminar
Knowledgeable instructors lead courses that include hiking and backpacking, skiing and snowshoeing, children’s seminars, cave tours, and lessons in flora and fauna, and range in length from an afternoon to several days. Organized by the Sequoia Field Institute, an offshoot of Sequoia Natural History Association, a nonprofit park-support group (565-4251).
4. General Sherman Tree
If you can only take the time for one, then you might as well visit the largest tree in the world. The giant sequoia is located in Sequoia National Park, about 20 miles and a little over an hour travel time from the Ash Mountain park entrance.
5. High Sierra Trail
From Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park, this trans-Sierra trail travels 71 miles east to Mount Whitney, at 14,495 feet, the highest mountain in the lower 48.
6. Horseback riding
Tour the trails of the Sierra via a saddle, for an hour, a day, or a week. Visit Cedar Grove Pack Station (565-3464) or Grant Grove Stables (335-9292) in Kings Canyon National Park or Horse Corral Pack Station (565-3404) in Giant Sequoia National Monument.
7. Hospital Rock
Originally inhabited by Native American tribes, the name of the rock originates from a time when the white man was beginning to explore the region as well. Located on the Generals Highway, six miles from the Sequoia Park entrance.
8. Kaweah Post Office
Located on North Fork Drive three miles from Highway 198 in Three Rivers, this structure is significant because of its association with the Kaweah Co-Operative Colony, a utopian experiment that attracted members from throughout the U.S. and overseas from 1885 to 1892. The post office, one of the smallest in operation in the nation, was originally located at the Colony’s Advance camp, farther up the North Fork, but was moved several times as need warranted. The post office was designated a California Historical Landmark in 1948.
9. Kings Canyon Highway
It’s one way in and one way out on this mountain highway, but it’s worth the drive to view the deepest canyon in America. The highway descends 2,500 feet in just over 10 miles and the sheer granite canyon walls are dizzying.
10. Lake Kaweah
Recreational opportunities abound here. Rent a houseboat, fish, swim, picnic, camp, and visit the Kaweah Heritage Visitor Center.
11. Mineral King Historic District
The road from Three Rivers to Mineral King is just 25 miles in length, but takes 1.5 hours or more to negotiate. Built over 125 years ago, the road is little changed, and time stands still for the cabins and the landscape in the Mineral King Valley as well. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, the alpine valley once was the site of an 1870s mining settlement.
12. Moro Rock
From Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park, take the scenic Moro Rock/Crescent Meadow Road and follow the signs for 1.5 miles to the parking lot. Then it’s just 400 more steps to the top of this monolith where, on a clear day, the 360-degree view includes the Great Western Divide of the Sierra Nevada range and the San Joaquin Valley below.
If it’s history you want, it’s history we’ve got. Three Rivers Historical Museum (561-2707), located where the 17-foot tall Paul Bunyan statue meets the highway, houses items and exhibits from Three Rivers’s past. Giant Forest Museum in Sequoia tells the story of the national park and its famous trees.
14. River Road
This three-mile stretch of dirt road in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park is a scenic side trip along the Kings River, accessible by car, but better enjoyed by bicycle.
15. Shopping, shopping...
Forget the big box stuff, Kaweah Country shopping is about smaller retail outlets that range from discount to upscale. Find everything from postcards to clothing, the whimsical to the eclectic, locally-made candy to Three Rivers-bottled wine, and souvenirs to local artwork.
16. The Kaweah Commonwealth
Pick up a copy of The Kaweah Commonwealth or, better yet, subscribe. Every week, it’s loaded with news, commentary, photos, and visitor information that fulfills our mission of: “We’ll tell you things you won’t read, hear, or see anywhere else.”
17. Three Rivers Arboretum and Observatory
Guided tours are free at this Three Rivers home where the grounds consist of 800 rare trees and plants. Take a peek at the night sky and receive a lesson in astronomy while visiting this solar-powered observatory. Call for an appointment (561-4147).
18. Tunnel Rock
It’s a curiosity under which millions of Sequoia National Park visitors passed for 70 years. Located on the Generals Highway about 2.5 miles from the park entrance, the highway has since been rerouted around the rock, but a turnout and sidewalk allows visitors to recall a time when cars were lower and slower.
19. Whitewater rafting
It’s a seasonal thrill on the Kaweah River to take a professionally-guided whitewater rafting tour. Several companies offer trips, including Three Rivers-based Kaweah White Water Adventures (561-1000).
20. Zumwalt Meadow
A one-mile, self-guided nature trail and boardwalk around this grand specimen of a Sierra meadow, located in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park.
The National Park Service and the residents of Three Rivers strongly recommend that visitors coming into town and to the nearby national parks stay well away from the river and off the slippery rocks that border the waterway.
The Kaweah River's first victim in May 2003 was an 11-year-old boy who fell into the raging water and, despite search-and-rescue efforts, his body was not recovered until several months later and several miles downstream. In 2004, there were no drownings because the snowpack was minimal and spring runoff not as dramatic.
In May 2005, the Kaweah took the life of a young man who was at the river with friends to celebrate his 21st birthday. His body was discovered a day later about five miles downstream from where he was last seen.
Spring snowmelt creates extremely strong currents and very cold water, making the river a deadly place to be. Every year, an unsuspecting visitor gives into the temptation to enter the water and accidentally slips in by walking too close to the water. Every year, there are those who dont make it out alive.
Wild, beautiful, deadly.
The Kaweah River's Middle Fork is a succession of descending rapids and steep falls.
The Middle Fork of the Kaweah River.
The Middle Fork of the Kaweah River is treacherous when brimming with spring snowmelt.
More river warnings (because it cant be said enough)
DONT BE TEMPTED by the deceivingly inviting water. Its a trick.
The river is dangerous, cold, and unpredictable. The shoreline can be steep and is bordered with water-polished rocks that are slippery when wet or dry.
Visitors should realize this is not a city park. The river contains underwater hazards, drop-offs, swift currents, and undertows, none of which are pointed out, posted, or obvious to see.
At this time of year, swimming in the river can be as dangerous as falling in, and whichever way you enter, getting out may not be an option. If you do get out, hypothermia becomes the danger, so get out of the wet clothing and into dry clothing, a blanket, and/or sleeping bag.
Besides staying out of the river, see above for additional river safety tips.
When you take a walk in this park, its not always a walk in the park. If walking in a city, we all understand the importance of crosswalks and traffic lights, as well as the risk we take if we cross a street without looking its dangerous, but by understanding the hazards, we arent fearful.
Its the same when visiting Three Rivers and Sequoia National Park, but you cant rely on signs and lights to protect you. Only YOU are solely responsible for YOU. You must embark on your recreational adventures completely informed of the risks in order to keep you and your loved ones and friends safe.
There are basic rules of safety to follow:
A Rattlesnake coiled in the defensive striking position.
Dont be scared, because they dont come looking for you. But, yes, they are poisonous, so when in rattlesnake country, be alert. Dont step over rocks or logs without checking the other side. Dont climb rocks without seeing first where your hands will be placed.
Never try to handle a snake and dont provoke them. This is how many bites occur.
If bitten, stay calm and seek medical help immediately. Bites are rarely fatal, but it is imperative that the wound be treated immediately to avoid severe tissue damage.
Poison Oak: This shiny green shrub is at its most beautiful during spring, but if it has leaves of three, let it be. (The leaves turn red in the autumn, then fall off in winter, making the plant hard to identify, yet it is still potent.)
Prevalent in the foothills, if any part of the body or clothing has come into contact with poison oak, change and wash as soon as possible. Even if you dont think you touched poison oak, if hiking or exploring outdoors in the foothills, make it a habit to shower or bathe as soon as possible.
Ticks: During and after any walk or hike in the foothills, check yourself and others in your party for ticks. When walking, wear light-colored clothing, which will make the insects easier to spot, and tuck pant-legs into your socks, so they cant be exposed to your skin.
A tick, which is about the size of freckle, will attempt to burrow its head into your skin, then take up residence, using your blood as sustenance. To remove a tick, tweezers work best, but it is necessary to make sure that the entire tick is removed, including the head.
Ticks may carry Lyme disease, which is a chronic, recurrent inflammatory condition characterized first by a bulls-eye reddening of the skin, then joint pains, fatigue, and sometimes neurological disturbances.
Wildlife: Dont feed them! This immediately minimizes any risk of disease, injury, or damage to property caused by animals who call Three Rivers and Sequoia home.
Theyre cute when hanging around at a picnic, but the various types of squirrels and other rodents have fleas that can carry plague. Mice droppings can have hantavirus, which can be contracted not just by touching it, but by inhaling as well.
These creatures and skunks, opossum, raccoons, coyotes, and others can also carry rabies.
Marmots, most infamously in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park, enjoy chewing on the hoses accessed from the underside of cars. This can cause significant damage, and it is important to check under the hood for fluid leaks or brake-line damage prior to driving the vehicle, if parked in marmot territory.
A rare sighting of a mountain lion in Three Rivers.
Mountain lions are a rare sight, but they are here. Its best to never hike alone and keep children within view.
Never run away from or turn your back on a mountain lion. Instead stand your ground, raise arms to appear larger, pick up children, and fight back if attacked.
Just like Yogi, the black bears that inhabit Kaweah Country would like to steal your picnic or your ice chest or any other smelly, tasty item that is left within easy grasp. It is important to never let a bear have human food because thats when it could become aggressive and dangerous.
Instead, enjoy them from a distance, never come between a mother bear and her cubs, and dont ever feed a bear. Once they taste human food, they are smart enough to know its easy to get again, but cant possibly realize that it causes destructive behavior (such as breaking into cars, slashing tents, or boldly approaching humans) that can only lead to its execution.
Weather: In the Sierra mountains, the weather can change quickly. Always keep an eye on the sky.
Watch the weather forecast and plan accordingly, whether driving or hiking, if snow is predicted.
If you hear thunder or see lightning, take appropriate action. Do not climb Moro Rock, and stay out of meadows and water.
Now, grab a pack, a water bottle, snack, and the sunscreen and get outside, off the road, and enjoy your stay in Kaweah Country. Its wild!