Walk in the shade of the ancient Sequoias

06/07/2012  | 
TRAVEL USA
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This summer take your R&R in peaceful Three Rivers, and walk in the shade of ancient Sequoias!

As you enter the quaint rural community of Three Rivers, once home to Native California’s largest tribe, the Yokuts, feast your eyes on our golden hills, dotted with the evergreen of oaks and washed with the blue of our snow-melt rivers. Like the ancient Yokuts, follow the rivers to their source, spending the heat of the day in what is now Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest, walking in the shade of giant sequoias, the largest living things on earth. Dip your toes in a snow-melt river, now moving more slowly, warmed by the sun, and wonder no more why the Yokuts and the ranchers who came after them, each considered this part of California a paradise.

For a more modern perspective, lean back and take a lazy boat ride along Lake Kaweah’s snow-melt reservoir, a natural pooling point for our snow-melt rivers which was enlarged to protect the Valley below. At its peak each year, Lake Kaweah swells with 183,300 acre feet of freshly melted snow.

Watch as the Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Kaweah slowly releases the snow-melt from the huge reservoir, which today is controlled by a pebble dam and the world’s largest fusegates. Then hike or camp around the now-enlarged Lake bed, noting the various forks of the Kaweah River as they slowly wind their way across the bottom.

 For boating or fishing, the Kaweah Marina is a local favorite. It’s a small but full-service marina offering slip rentals, boat rentals, bait, tackle, poles, fishing information, snack bar, ice, gas and even a small convenience market. Some of our residents live in houseboats on Lake Kaweah all year long. I’m sure you’ll see sail boats — and we usually see motor boats — with water skiing on the weekends. Dale and Joy Mehrten, former owners of the Marina for many years (now advisors), know what fish are biting, when, where and what bait to use.

 We locals also know a thing or two, especially about secret places for catching trout! Ask a local, then try your luck along the Kaweah River’s Main, North, or East Forks.

 When you’re ready to chill, you will particularly appreciate Sequoia National Park’s Crystal Cave, which naturally maintains a steady 50 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, in addition to housing some spectacular marble formations.

 Take the children on top of Lake Kaweah to the Kaweah Heritage Visitors Center, which has a deck overlooking the Lake, picnic tables, and a huge slab of bedrock from Three Rivers containing ancient Native American bedrock mortars used for grinding acorns. Inside the Visitors Center enjoy the book store, Native American exhibits, wildlife exhibits, exhibits pertaining to the flooding which the Kaweah River historically caused in the Valley below, and even exhibits explaining the dam and fusegates. Admission is free, and the center is open daily from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Staff there has also done an excellent job of charting the entire known natural history of the area. In addition, if you call ahead, you may also be able to schedule a Ranger-taught watershed lecture or a Ranger-led tour of the dam/fusegates.

 The all-volunteer Three Rivers Historical Society staffs an adorable Museum in town, focusing mainly on the early Native American and early Ranching communities in our area. Out front, the museum boasts a 40 foot statue of Paul Bunyan carved by a local artist in the 1940’s from a single fallen sequoia tree, along with a slice of another huge sequoia displaying tree rings that date back to the beginning of the Christian era, plus Native American bedrock mortars, and a Native American village which was dedicated in October of 2011 consisting of a Wukchumni summer home, a Wuksachi winter home, and a small acorn grainery on a raised platform. Inside, this small museum rotates the Historical Society’s extensive collection of local Native American artifacts and early ranching artifacts, along with books and gifts related to Three Rivers and our magnificent neighbors: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

For the shoppers at heart, Three Rivers has art studios and art collectives displaying local art for sale, along with a Russian nesting doll shop, Heart’s Desire gift shop located on the river, a wonderful 50-year old candy factory and old world icecream shop called Reimer’s also located on the river, a couple of thrift shops, an antique shop, and more. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks offer books, gifts, souvenirs and more, for purchase at each of their Visitor Centers and Museums.

For music and art lovers, the natural beauty of our foothills, rivers, lake, and forests is nothing short of inspirational! We have concerts, a music camp, live music in our restaurants, and studios, galleries and co-ops selling local art. We also have our very own 1st Saturday in Three Rivers, which is a free festival of food, fun and fabulous art, in which our various artists open up their studios throughout town and share their wonderful world with us.

The new “America the Beautiful” annual free pass for active military is being honored at Lake Kaweah and also at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, effective 5/19/12. For more information on the pass program, visit http://usgs.gov/pass/military.html.

For more information, visit www.threerivers.com or email us at [email protected]
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