Imagine – a river that drops 85 feet per mile full of class IV-V rapids flowing from the 13,000 foot Sierra Nevada Great Western Divide mountains. The Kaweah River is one of America’s steepest river runs featuring long boulder slaloms and tricky hydraulics that create an adrenaline pumping ride. Due to its steep fall, the Kaweah River passes through a wide range of climate and vegetation zones in a relatively short distance. This river trip is for strong swimmers, in good shape and ideally with prior class 3 paddling experience. The rapids are fast and technical, our experienced guides will help you navigate these waters.
The Kaweah River, pronounced kah-wee-haw, is a native American Yokutsan word meaning “crow cry.” Located near the inspiring Sequoia National Park and the Kings Canyon National Park there is incredible alpine scenery with dense concentrations of giant sequoias that can be enjoyed as you rush through this canyon.
The main stem of the Kaweah is only 33.6 miles long flowing southwest from the Sequoia National Park, but it has a vertical drop of nearly two and a half miles on its short run to the San Joaquin Valley. Water flows are determined by Sierra snowmelt and at higher than 2500cfs, the Kaweah River is a force to be reckoned with, offering boaters a fast-moving, exhilarating run.
In years past, the greatest concentration of Native American settlements was along the foothill stretch of the Kaweah River, in what is today Three Rivers and Lake Kaweah. Originally inhabited by the Yokuts, the watershed was used by the Wukchumni 3,000 years ago where they spent summers hunting game and gathering herbs along the East Fork that they traded with the Paiutes of the Great Basin. California grizzly bear and beaver were once common to the area, but were hunted or trapped out entirely by the early 1900s. The mountain areas continue to provide habitat for black bears, mule deer and bighorn sheep. Tule elk used to frequent the area, but their habitat in the Kaweah Delta has been almost entirely eliminated by agriculture which began around 1864. Three Rivers has native rainbow trout and introduced brown trout and bass. The Kaweah and its tributaries are open year-round to angling with a 5 fish daily limit.
Logging camps sprang up in the mid 1800s and many of the sequoias were felled even though their wood is generally too soft to be useful in construction. In 1880 the U.S. government began establishing timber reserves and logging mostly ended after the Sequoia National Park was founded in 1890. In the spring, the wildflowers bloom abundantly providing a spectacular river atmosphere. The Kaweah River, like its neighbors, the King, Tule and Kern, never sees the Pacific Ocean because it is mostly consumed by irrigation. Any water left ends up in Tulare Lake.
Our Kaweah Rafting Trips meet in Three Rivers, offering a variety of good restaurants & lodging options. Your Kaweah River rafting trip can include spectacular views, significant landmarks, serious hiking, sweet eats and swirling whitewater.
Meeting off Highway 198
Comfort Inn & Suites – 40820 Sierra Drive. (559) 561-9000 or 800-331-2140. Pool, spa, sauna, fireplaces & Jacuzzi’s.
Best Western – Holiday Lodge – 40105 Sierra Drive. (559) 561-4119 or 888-523-9909. Heated Pool, Jacuzzi, & playground.
Buckeye Tree Lodge – 46000 Sierra Drive (6mi. NE) (559) 561-5900 River views, pool, decks & patios.
Americas Best Value Inn – Lazy J Ranch Motel – 39625 Sierra Drive. (2.5mi. NE) (559) 561-4449 Pool & pet friendly.
Gateway Lodge 45978 Sierra Drive. (6mi. NE). (559) 561-4133. Restaurant & lodge with limited rooms, cabins & a 2 br river cabin.
Lake Elowin Resort 43840 Dinely Drive. (4mi. NE). (559) 561-3460. 1 and 2 bedroom cabins on lake, beautiful grounds.
Sequoia Village Inn – 45971 Sierra Drive. (559) 561-3652. Ten private chalet and cottage accommodations located at the entrance to Sequoia National Park
Three Rivers Village – includes multiple lodging options. Farmhouses, vacation chalets, & resorts that accommodate couples, but also larger groups of 6-10+.
Sequioa RV Resort – 43490 North Fork Dr. (4mi N). (559) 561-4333. 21 acres, on river RV sites, no tent camping.
Lemon Cove Village RV Park – 32075 Sierra Dr. (10mi. SW). (559) 597-2346. Camping sites & RV hook-ups.
Horse Creek Campground – Lake Kaweah – 34443 Sierra Drive. (8mi. SW). (559) 597-2301 or (877) 444-6777 Army Corps of Engineers, 80 campsites.
Sierra Subs and Salads – 41717 Sierra Drive. (559) 561-4810. Healthy sandwiches, soups, wraps, and panini’s. Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten Free options. Enjoy your meal at the picnic tables overlooking the Kaweah river, inside in an air-conditioned/heated room or be prepared to-go. On Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in 2017!