OverviewThe Kaweah River is located in the western foothills of the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. The river's headwaters are in Sequoia National Park along the Great Western Divide, a sub-range of mountains that run parallel to the Sierra Crest. The Kaweah River has five main forks, the Middle Fork, the Marble Fork, the East Fork, the North Fork, and the South Fork. All five forks flow down through beautiful rugged and steep canyons. The Middle and Marble Forks meet near Potwisha Campground and near the town of Three Rivers the North, East, and South Forks join them. Then they all flow into Lake Kaweah. Below Lake Kaweah, the river splits into many channels. Most of its water is used for irrigation but some still reaches Tulare Lake. Tulare Lake was at one time the largest lake west of the Mississippi. The Kern, Tule, and Kings Rivers also filled up this lake in historic times.
It is generally believed that the Kaweah River was named after the Gawia Tribe that lived near the small town of Woodlake. Settlers translated the "G" to a "K." Gawia means crow or raven's cry. The tribe was so named because they were reportedly known to be a loud and rowdy group of people, like a flock of crows.
Getting ThereHwy 198 is the main road one would take to access the Kaweah River. From Visalia take Hwy 198 east to the town of Three Rivers. In Three Rivers you can take the South Fork Road which provides access to the South Fork and this road ends at South Fork Campground in Sequoia National Park. Or you can take North Fork Drive which provides access to the North Fork. Or you can take the road to Mineral King which provides access to the East Fork. Or you can simply stay on the Highway which becomes the General's Highway and follows the Marble and Middle Forks for a little ways.
Click here for a good map showing Hwy 198 and all the forks of the Kaweah River.
Trails along the South Fork include the Ladybug and Hockett Trail which leave from South Fork Campground.
Trails along the North Fork include the North Fork Trail and Old Colony Mill Road which was the first road that was built to access to Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park.
Trails along the East Fork include the Atwell-Hockett Trail and the trail to Farewell Gap from Mineral King.
Trails along the Marble Fork include the trail from Potwisha to Marble Falls and the trail from Lodgepole to Tokopah Falls.
Trails along the Middle Fork include the Middle Fork Trail which starts near Hospital Rock.
Red TapeThere is a $20 fee charged for entrance into Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. This fee will get you a pass good for 7-days. You can also buy a $80 America the Beautiful Federal Lands Recreation Pass good for entrance to all National Parks, National Forests, BLM, US Fish & Wildlife, and Bureau of Reclamation sites for one year from date of purchase. If you're disabled, you may want to get an Access Pass which are free and good for a lifetime. If you're 62 years of age or older, a Senior Pass can be purchased for $10 and they're also good for a lifetime. Click here for more info on fees and passes.
Wilderness Permits are required for overnight trips to the wilderness areas surrounding the Kaweah River Canyons. If your trip originates in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, click here. If your trip originates in Sequoia National Forest, click here. If your trip originates in the Inyo National Forest, click here.
There are food storage requirements in Sequoia National Park for keeping your food safe from bears. Click here for more info.
Click here to find out information on fishing regulations.
CampingLodgepole is a popular campground on the upper part of the Marble Fork Kaweah River. Potwisha Campground is a campground that's open year-round on the lower part of the Marble Fork. The South Fork Campground is also open year-round and it's on the South Fork. Buckeye Flat is a small campground on the Middle Fork. Atwell Mill and Cold Springs Campgrounds are located near the East Fork. Click here for more information on these campgrounds.
Horse Creek Campground is located on Lake Kaweah. Click here for more information and to make reservations at this campground.
RocksSome rock climbing opportunities in the Kaweah River Canyons...
Moro Rock, Castle Rocks, and the Fin rise above the Middle Fork Kaweah River
The Watchtower and Little Baldy rise above the Marble Fork Kaweah River
Chimney Rock and Big Baldy rise above the North Fork Kaweah River
Homer's Nose is above the South Fork Kaweah River
SafetyThe Kaweah River is beautiful and many people are tempted to play, wade, swim, fish, kayak, or raft in it. These activities should not be attempted in spring and early summer when the river swells due to snowmelt and is extremely hazardous. Anytime of the year one should be very, very careful around the river. Drowning is the number one cause of death in Sequoia National Park. The rocks are slippery, the water is cold, and the currents can be very treacherous. The park website warns that there are no beginning kayak runs and says, "Be sure to have sufficient information, expertise, and appropriate reliable equipment before venturing forth on these beautiful but wild rivers."
Sequoia GrovesLike big trees? There are plenty of groves in the Kaweah River watershed, including some that are very easily accessible like Giant Forest and some that are very hard to access like the Castle Creek Grove.
Redwood Mountain Grove
Pine Ridge Grove
Castle Creek Grove
Redwood Meadow Grove
Case Mountain Grove
New Oriole Grove
Eden Creek Grove
Horse Creek Grove
Cahoon Creek Grove
Atwell-East Fork Grove
Homer's Nose Grove
Board Camp Grove
South Fork Grove
Coffeepot Canyon Grove
Devils Canyon Grove
I highly recommend the book A Guide to the Sequoia Groves of California by Dwight Willard to find out more about these groves. Click here for the Sequoia Natural History Association Bookstore page that features this book.
External LinksSequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Army Corps of Engineers Website for Lake Kaweah
BLM North Fork Kaweah Recreation Sites
The Kaweah River Page (includes a wealth of information on boating and other activities on and around the river!)
History of Three Rivers from the Kaweah Commonwealth Newspaper
Kaweah Oaks Preserve
Tulare County Mountains Weather Forecast
Tulare County Foothills Weather Forecast