California mountain road contain numerous “hogbacks” as my friend, Darlene, calls the switchbacks on the way to Sequoia National Park. It turns out that those same kinds of roads exist on the Coastal Redwood Highway as well. This park called Mystery Trees was about where our truck’s worn out transmission tired of lugging our new trailer. We rented a car and enjoyed the “break.” Not only did the roads and the paths twist and turn, so did the trees, providing beauty and shade. When we did get going again, the fog wanted us to slow down more than the zigzags. These zigzags are closer to home – to anyone’s home. I never tire of the zigzag shapes of tree branches. These trees are in an educational property called Circle J Ranch owned by Tulare County Office of Education where I worked. It is close to a tiny town called Springville, east of Porterville, CA.
I apologize for the quality of this picture. I heard that someone zig zagged on their responsibilities to posterity, and put the archives in the trash instead of the scanning machine, so this is the best picture I have. In this newspaper picture it was the Kaweah (Kuh wee’ uh) River that zagged.
The headwaters for the Kaweah River begin their zig zag course out of the Great Western Divide where mountain summits rise to over 12, 000 feet. The North Fork, which is just east of us begins at 9,000 feet. If the river could go down the mountain in a straight line, the Kaweah River would drop in excess of 2 vertical miles in a distance of 30 linear miles. The Kaweah River loses the same altitude as the Colorado River, but is 97% shorter. It is the steepest river in the United States. Even with a dam to control flooding, in 1969 the water zig zagged its own way into the Woodlake Valley. (Tilchen, Mark. Floods of the Kaweah)
To see more entries for this Zig Zag challenge, click the icon above. 🙂
What would you do with an unruly river that tumbles 12,000 feet from the Sierra Nevada Mountains starting in the Sequoia National Park? No other North American river, including the Colorado River, drops so far in such a short distance.
What would you do if its unruliness built up one the most fertile deltas in the West?
What would you do if it emptied into the largest body of fresh water in the lower 48 states west of the Lake Superior? (That shallow lake, Tulare Lake, has long since been drained by a series of irrigation canals.) Like a ghost it infrequently reappears flooding Highway 43, the road to my favorite beach.
What would you do with the unruly, three-forked river?
You would dam that river! And 50 years ago, that’s just what the U.S. Corps of Engineers did.
Mary restrains the clouds from ushering in the next flood at the Kaweah Heritage Visitor Center.
Though these were not the only flood years, large floods caused by warm winter rains melting the snowpack occurred in 1937 (Remember the Grapes of Wrath? Steinbeck wrote his famous book after he visited Visalia, and saw the destruction of the flood that year.) Additionally warm weather floods also took place in 1955, 1966, and 1986.
Smaller floods caused by warm weather snowmelt only without lots of extra watery input deluged the valley in 1969, 1978, 1983, and 1997. The once every 50 years or so a flash flood type storm, caused by a tropical storm dropping 3-5 inches overnight during a dry season, last happened in September, 1978. Finally, the rarest destructive flood initiated by a landslide that created a natural dam. Like a chain of dominos when the dam broke it caused a 40 foot deep river to plunge down the mountain side and flow into Visalia, still 5 feet deep when it created the temporary Venice in CA. This disaster happened only once in December, 1867. (Facts thanks to Sequoia Natural History Association, author Mark Tilchen. Floods of the Kaweah.) Mary bought it for me at half price, $5.99, compared to the next museum we visited. Amazon price is $10.95. It’s a great book with many pictures of famous floods.
Here are the pictures I took of the old photos from the Kaweah Heritage Visitor Center at Kaweah Lake.
If you teach 3rd grade in Tulare County I would recommend visiting Terminus Dam on the Kaweah River as a mini-field trip for your students or your own family, and the book would certainly interest you. Although the reading level is too difficult for third graders, the pictures might draw them into challenging the descriptions. Earl Mann, who took many of the pictures in the book, still lives in the area, might be a great primary source witness to the flood of 1955. Tilchen recorded Earl Mann’s account of the 1955 flood on page 36 of the book.
Hope you enjoyed this short history lesson about fascinating Tulare County.
I thoroughly prepared myself for a day of work. I was going to work on my quilt. but Mary called, and off we went to the Sequoia National Park.
We started at Bravo Lake in Woodlake, admiring the Botanical Gardens. You have to climb to get to the lake as you walk through the gardens to the walking path around the lake. Bravo Lake, fed by the Kaweah River, Indian word, eah, meaning river, filled with the raucous caw, cawing of many crows.
Bravo Lake, originally boasting a Spanish was renamed after an old-fashioned pioneer fist fight. As today, all fights have plenty of onlookers and well-wishers. This one was no different. When one of the fighting Irish, Tom Fowler, won, the spectators cheered him with “Bravo, bravo, Tom. Bravo.” The Indians living in the area promptly renamed the lake, Bravo Lake.
After hiking a few feet up to the brim of the lake, we took a quick look then got back in the car, and went east towards the mountains. The beauty of the snow on the mountains almost took my breath away, and I wanted to stop in the middle of the road, but Mary wouldn’t let me!
Mary snapped a few pictures along the way, but I was driving, but you have seen this trip before. When we got to the first stop for Kaweah Lake, we found the Natural History museum open.
It was closed when Vince, Kalev, and I visited the last time. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the museum purchasing books, and chatting with the volunteer about the dam built on the river in the 1950s to alleviate the flooding problems that had plagued the valley since 1852, when it was first settled by white settlers. I took pictures of the notebook of old photos. You can see the lake in the background of some of them. I’m only including one picture in this overview post.
Back on the road to Three Rivers we stopped at another POI, point of interest, that Mary found on an iPhone app, a giant cow. I thought this bull/cow was rather vulgar looking given the pipes coming and going from him/her. I found the exhaust pipe especially humorous since cows are especially huge methane producers here in the valley, causing more air pollution than automobiles. Apparently this bovine used to be a hamburger stand, which explains some of his/her extraneous appendages.
Mary, you wanted a what?
Then we traveled on to the next museum where they were setting up for a Veteran’s appreciation program at 7:00 p.m. tonight.
The outside attraction here was a giant statue of Paul Bunyan.
Displayed on the east side of the building were both summer and winter Native American huts. So in which one would you rather spend the winter? You can read more about Yokuts housing on TC History Gal Productions.
We finally made it to my favorite stop, the Gateway Restaurant at the mouth of the Kaweah River. Mary tried to dutifully check us in and post our food on Facebook, but wifi there didn’t work with iPhone.
You can see that when the water levels are up to normal – the white line on the rocks, that this would be an exciting ride in a raft. OK, I couldn’t actually SEE the line, but the waitress assured us that it was there. The stack of rocks piled on the boulders are for wishing. So make a wish, but don’t tell anyone what it is. Let me know if it comes true, though!
While we ate our fish lunch at 3:00 p.m., we read about the famous Utopian Socialist Colony founded in Three Rivers called the Kaweah Commonwealth in 1896. They wanted to earn money for themselves cutting down the huge trees, and thus they motivated John Muir, and eventually Teddy Roosevelt to protect the gentle giants from eternal destruction by declaring the colony’s purchased property a National Park. (The U.S. Government could do that.) Six years after they started their colony, it ended with only a minor internal bickering. Utopia didn’t make it here around Three Rivers. I personally thought they were much too capitalistic. – cutting down our fine trees for profit. Apparently not everyone wanted to labor at all, another cause of internal irritation.
We could have gone back, but chose to go the 1/4 mile east from the restaurant to the entrance of the National Park. That was the most expensive short date I’ve had – ever! Mary paid $80 for an annual pass to get in. We went to the station, stayed 10 minutes until it closed, then turned around and headed for the chocolate candy store before it closed. Had I been a mere 6 months older, I could have bought a LIFETIME pass to ALL the National Parks for $10. The only bad part of that was that the man asked me if I wanted to purchase one. He didn’t even ask Mary who is just about my age, 30 something. Why would he think I look 62, anyway? I’m going on a diet as soon as I finish my chocolate candy.
You can tell that all these great times have taken their toll on my tummy. I’m almost as big as Paul Bunyan! Diet, diet, diet. (tomorrow).
“Unattended children will be given candy and a free puppy!” Do I look 10? What about a second childhood? After a long wait in line to buy chocolates for Vince (hahaha), we headed back home. What a fun surprise. Did you enjoy the trip with me? I hope so! 🙂