Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

High water in Three Rivers during Winter 2010 (not even close to flood stage).

Looking back and forth

John Elliott


Happy New Year! Those three little words conjure up so many memories… the highlights of the past year, perhaps? Maybe the New Year’s Eve you remember as your best… the one when you shared a meaningful embrace and a kiss at the stroke of midnight.

As we Boomers age, it becomes more of an evening to enjoy a gathering with family or friends and a nice holiday break from the routine. On my last few New Year’s Eves, I’ve had to be awakened a few minutes before midnight for the ceremonial countdown.

At midnight there are even noisemakers in peaceful Three Rivers and, of course, gunshots. Why firing off a few rounds has to be part of celebrating a New Year is beyond me.

Sarah and I are more about going out on the morning after, picking a scenic route to run on while watching the sun rise on the first day of the year. So peaceful, calm, and somehow reassuring that no matter how much things change there is a timeless quality here.  

It is fitting that this January 1 marks the first newspaper of 2016 as we rapidly close in on 21 years in this crazy business. I recall one first Friday of a new year (January 3, 1997) quite vividly.

That week Three Rivers was in throes of a significant flood on January 2-3. By the evening of January 1, following several inches of warm rain on a huge snow pack, the Kaweah River was a raging torrent. 

I took the dog for a walk in the downpour that evening shortly before 10 p.m. Water from the Middle Fork was already approaching North Fork Drive. It’s been there before, evidenced by all the river sand and cobble on both sides of North Fork Drive just up canyon for the Three Rivers Arts Center.

My father-in-law, Jim Barton, who turns 92 this year, always told me that when the river crosses North Fork Drive and enters the Barton pasture, that’s “the Big One.” By the Big One he means the high water experienced in 1938 and 1955 that on both occasions took out the North Fork Bridge.

As I walked along North Fork Drive there was a huge pop and then an eerie light as if someone had flashed a giant strobe light. Then complete blackout as the transformer behind the Chevron exploded into the darkness.

What followed I realized later was a touch-and-go moment as to where this flood event might end up in the annals of Three Rivers. The water was soon lapping on the far side North Fork Drive.

Then at precisely 10:50 p.m. the rain stopped. Within seconds, the take line of the river receded slightly. 

Alas, the flood of Jan. 2-3 was not to be a “big one.” The Middle Fork did reach a flow of 60,000 cubic feet per second.        

Preserving the historical record— For over a year, a project started by The Kaweah Commonwealth as a way to document and research this unique place has been to digitally archive all issues of the newspaper. The years 1995 to 2002 are already completed with more years to be available soon.

All this data, every issue in its entirety, will be searchable and downloadable on the TKC website. That is where the future of the newspaper business is headed. Each publisher must do a viable online product to remain competitive.

That does not mean the neat little tabloid will disappear from print but it will eventually be relegated to being the backseat driver of wherever the Commonwealth is headed. 

The year 2015 will go down in history as a year with many extraordinary happenings — the warmest on record since detailed weather records have been kept beginning a century ago. It will go down in local annals as the year that provided relief from a harsh four-year drought.

How can we ever forget 2015 as the great influx of bears? If nothing else, living for a few months with bears has taught us all where our priorities lie and something about ourselves that is really good or quite the opposite.

For me, I will always remember 2015 as the year when the Kaweah Country Run became firmly established as an annual event for the sole purpose of helping others. This week, I donated the proceeds from the Kaweah Country Run to the Chris Dudley Foundation to help support a basketball camp for kids with Type 1 diabetes. It’s a incurable chronic disease that our family has experienced firsthand. 

In 2015, I was fortunate enough to run two marathons and an ultramarathon. However, in 2016, I will run the most difficult and meaningful race of my life. Stay tuned for that news... and stay safe and make healthy lifestyle choices!