World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Kings River (California)

Kings River (Wim-mel-che[1])
Rio de los Santos Reyes[1]
The Kings River in the San Joaquin Valley about 10 miles (16 km) below Pine Flat Dam
Name origin: Derived from Rio Los Santos Reyes (River of the Holy Kings), a name given to the river by Gabriel Moraga
Country United States
State California
Regions Kings Canyon National Park, Fresno County, California, Kings County, California
 - left South Fork Kings River, Mill Creek
 - right Middle Fork Kings River, North Fork Kings River
Source Confluence of Middle and South Forks
 - elevation 2,257 ft (688 m)
 - coordinates  [1]
Mouth Central Valley (either Tulare Lakebed or San Joaquin River)
 - elevation 184 ft (56 m) [1]
 - coordinates  [1]
Length 125 mi (201 km)
Basin 1,693 sq mi (4,385 km2) [2]
Discharge for Piedra, California
 - average 2,287 cu ft/s (65 m3/s) [2]
 - max 91,000 cu ft/s (2,577 m3/s) [3]
 - min 0 cu ft/s (0 m3/s)
Map showing the course of the Kings River, with the drainage area above Centerville indicated

The Kings River is a major river of south-central [4]

A large alluvial fan has formed where the river's gradient decreases in the Central Valley so the river divides into distributaries. Southern distributaries enter the endorheic basin surrounding Tulare Lake while northern distributaries join the San Joaquin River, eventually reaching San Francisco Bay via the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. Tulare Lake was formerly one of the largest freshwater lakes in western North America, but heavy water diversions have left it dry except in years of exceptionally heavy runoff.


  • Course 1
    • Distributaries of the Kings River 1.1
    • Tributaries of the Kings River 1.2
  • History 2
  • Ecology 3
  • River modifications 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


A photograph taken by Ansel Adams of the Middle Fork and from the south Fork of Cartridge Creek

It arises in the Sierra Nevada, consisting of three forks. The Middle and South Forks start in Kings Canyon National Park, while the North Fork starts in the John Muir Wilderness. The South Fork flows in Kings Canyon: a spectacular 8,000-foot (2,400 m) deep glacial valley. The forks join in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Fresno County, California, where the river becomes an attraction for whitewater rafting (class 3 rapids). From that point, the Kings River flows about 125 miles (200 km) to the Tulare Lake bed, with a surface elevation at 56 m (184 ft), near Stratford, California.[5][6]

In the foothills, the water from the river is impounded at Pine Flat Dam. In the Central Valley, the river flows south of Fresno, California, where its water is diverted for agriculture. The Kings River splits six miles (10 km) north of Lemoore into a set of North and South Fork distributaries. These forks join again nearly five miles (8 km) west of Lemoore. Clark's Fork distributary splits off from the South Fork and flows 5.5 miles (9 km) to join the returning North Fork distributary. The North Fork distributary flows westward to the point where it joins the Fresno Slough, a link to the San Joaquin River when in flood, where its channel turns southwest and rejoins the main channel 6 miles (10 km) west-northwest of Lemoore. The river flows through an artificial channel into the normally dry Tulare Lake bed about ten miles (16 km) south of Stratford.[6][7]

Distributaries of the Kings River

Tributaries of the Kings River


The Kings River was named by Lieutenant [4] The river was originally named Rio de los Santos Reyes (River of the Holy Kings) to honor the Biblical Magi.[8] Jedediah Smith named it the Kimmel-che or Wimmel-che "after a tribe of Indians of that name who reside on it".[9]

On the valley floor the Kings River is responsible for certain groundwater recharge. There is evidence in the Hanford area that depths to groundwater are increasing, indicating concern for safe yields of the Tulare Lake groundwater subbasin.[10]


The Middle and South forks of the river converge to form the main Kings River.

North American beaver (Castor canadensis) have recolonized the Kings River including Kings Canyon National Park. Although there is some controversy as to whether beaver were native, fur trapper accounts place beaver in the river before they were trapped out in the late nineteenth century. A 14-man party led by Ewing Young which included Jonathan J. Warner in the fall of 1832 trapped the Kings River "up to and some distance into the mountains and then passed on to the San Joaquin River, trapped that river down to canoe navigation in the foothills, where a canoe was made...".[11] Young and Warner certainly were well above the 1,000 foot level in the Sierras as the headwaters of the San Joaquin River at Martha Lake is less than two miles from the headwaters of the Kings River, above 10,000 feet near Mount Goddard in Kings Canyon National Park and this was the natural route (Hell for Sure Pass) for Ewing and Warner to cross from the source of one river to the other. Williams similarly interpreted accounts of Colonel Warner's expedition, stating that "Warner, had been trapping fur-bearing animals at the headwaters of the Kings River about the same time that the Walker party was descending the Merced River".[12] These interpretations of Young and Warner trapping high up on the Kings River is buttressed by an eyewitness account taken by Tappe from a retired game warden in 1940, who stated that beaver were "apparently not uncommon on the upper part of the Kings River" until 1882-1883.[13]

River modifications

The Kings River is used to irrigate over 1.2 million acres (5020 km2) and provides water to fourteen Central Valley cities.[14] It is extensively dammed for flood control, irrigation, and power generation. The Pine Flat Dam, built in 1954, impounds the river near Piedra as it flows out of the foothills into the Central Valley. Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the dam is 440 feet (130 m) high and stores 1,000,000 acre feet (1.2 km3) of water, and serves mainly to control seasonal flooding.[15] The North Fork is impounded to form Black Rock Reservoir, Wishon Reservoir and Courtright Reservoir. Wishon and Courtright are the lower and upper reservoirs for the Helms Pumped Storage Plant, one of the largest pumped-storage hydroelectric stations in California with a capacity of 1,212 megawatts.

A second large dam on the Kings River, the Rodgers Crossing Dam, was proposed for construction in the late 1980s, upstream from Pine Flat. At a planned height of 600 feet (180 m), it would have backed water up through the foothills for 12 miles (19 km). Environmental and recreational concerns have halted the project thus far.[16]

Further downstream, the Friant-Kern Canal crosses the Kings River approximately 10 miles west of Pine Flat Dam, where water can be turned out into the Kings River through the Kings River wasteway. The canal then continues southwards towards Bakersfield.[17] The purpose of the 152-mile (245 km) channel, which starts on the San Joaquin River and ends at the Kern River, is to provide irrigation water to farms on the east side of the southern San Joaquin Valley. Construction work on the canal lasted from 1945 to 1951.[18]

On the lower river west of Highway 99, since 1959 Kings River Conservation District (KRCD) has worked to protect the flood carrying capacity of Kings River channels and levees. Maintenance efforts have focused on approximately 140 miles (230 km) of levees along the river from below Kingsburg near 8½ Avenue in Kings County to Highway 41 near Stratford on the South Fork of the river, and to McMullin Grade (Highway 145) on the North Fork. During flood releases, KRCD maintains 24-hour patrols monitoring the levee banks for sloughing, erosion and boils.[19]

Panorama of the Kings River near Piedra

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Kings River".  
  2. ^ a b "USGS Gage #11222000 on the Kings River at Piedra, CA (Monthly Streamflow)". National Water Information System.  
  3. ^ "USGS Gage #11222000 on the Kings River at Piedra, CA (Peak Streamflow)". National Water Information System.  
  4. ^ a b A Synopsis of Kings River History, from El Rio Reyes Trust website, accessed September 12, 2011
  5. ^ Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (PDF) (Map). Cartography by National Park Service. U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  6. ^ a b USGS Topo Maps for United States (Map). Cartography by  
  7. ^ Durham, David L. (2001). Place-Names of Central California. Clovis, California: Word Dancer Press. p. 146.  
  8. ^  
  9. ^ C. Hart Merriam (1924). "Jedediah Smith's Route across the Sierra in 1827". California Historical Society Quarterly 3: 25–29.  
  10. ^ J. Torrey, P. Awosika et al., Environmental Impact Report for the Hanford Mall, Earth Metrics Inc. for the city of Hanford and State of California Clearinghouse, rpt. 10082, March 8, 1990
  11. ^ Col. Jonathan J. Warner (1907). "Reminiscences of Early California -1831 to 1846 in Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 7". Los Angeles, California: Los Angeles County Pioneers of Southern California, Historical Society of Southern California. p. 187. Retrieved Mar 30, 2010. 
  12. ^ Earle E. Williams (June 1973). "Tales of Old San Joaquin City" (PDF). San Joaquin Historian: 9. Retrieved 2011-06-10. 
  13. ^ Tappe, Donald T. (1942). "The Status of Beavers in California" (PDF). Game Bulletin No. 3 (California Department of Fish & Game): 8. Retrieved Apr 11, 2010. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Pine Flat Dam". California Department of Water Resources. California Data Exchange Center. Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  16. ^ "Kings River". California Rivers. Friends of the River. Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  17. ^ US EPA. "Tulare Lake Basin Hydrology and Hydrography: A Summary of the Movement of Water and Aquatic Species". 
  18. ^ "Friant Division Project". Central Valley Project. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. 2009-05-27. Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  19. ^ "Kings River Flood Control Maintenance". Kings River Conservation District. 

External links

  • Kings River Handbook
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.