An Old Road, Sycamores, and a
Exploring the North Fork Kaweah River, November 7, 2004
On Sunday it was gloomy and my spirits were in need of a lift so I went for a drive up to
Three Rivers. Three Rivers is a town about an hour away from Springville and it sits along
the Hwy 198 entrance to Sequoia National Park. It's so named because 3 forks of the
Kaweah River join there, the North Fork, the South Fork, and what I guess is called the
Main Fork at that point. But further up the Main Fork splits into the Marble, Middle, and
East Forks. The North Fork was the only fork in which I have not really explored so
that's where I headed.
In the town of Three Rivers you take North Fork Drive which is a good paved, two lane
road for a few miles, then it progressively gets worse. First it narrows then becomes
only a lane wide. Then the pavement deteriorates and then finally disappears completely.
But that's my kind of road - one lane, bumpy, and dropping off hundreds of feet on one
North Fork Drive is an old road. In 1887 a group of people calling themselves the Kaweah
Colonists starting building it. They wanted to create a socialist society, a utopia, and their
main source of income was going to come from logging. So they acquired land in Giant
Forest via the Homestead Act and set about building a road up to it.
Not an easy task... I've heard this country described as "steep as a cow's face." It's
extremely steep, rugged, rocky, and between about 1,000 and 5,000 feet dense
impenetrable chaparral grows. In amongst the dense brush are tarantulas, scorpions,
rattlesnakes, and poison oak. But despite these obstacles the Kaweah Colonists continued
to painstakingly build this road by hand.
In 1890 just before they completed their road they were told by the Federal
Government that their Homestead Claims were null and void as Giant Forest was being
included in the new Sequoia National Park.
But they didn't give up and tried to fight for their land. And when they were not
successful they then tried to acquire parts of land near the Atwell Mill Grove. That land
was also given to Sequoia National Park so once again they failed. I can't help but feel
sorry for those folks, even if they intended to log in what is now one of my most favorite
places on Earth. And if you ever drive on the road that they built by hand you probably will
identify with their ambitious nature if nothing else.
It's a beautiful time of year to explore these west-side Sierra canyons like the North
Fork Kaweah because the sycamore, alder, and red bud are in their fall colors. Sycamore
are one of my favorite trees. Their leaves are yellow, gold, and rust and they contrast so
beautifully with the tree's nearly white bark.
I stopped at a couple of places along the river and hiked a little. I was wary of poison oak
that grows pretty much everywhere there and this time of year is without its leaves so
it's hard to identify. But I managed to get a couple of nice shots of fall foliage along the
river. I also encountered a chocolate brown tarantula about the size of my fist!
On the way back I stopped to take a picture of the tiny Kaweah Post Office which
serviced the Colonists and is still in use today.
Anyway, here are a few pics :)