South Fork Kings River

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Coordinates: 36°50′18″N 118°52′30″W / 36.83833°N 118.87500°W / 36.83833; -118.87500
South Fork Kings River
Kings Canyon National Park - Kings River near Zumwalt Meadow.JPG
The river viewed below the suspension bridge near Zumwalt Meadow
Country  United States
State  California
 - left Woods Creek, Bubbs Creek, Roaring River (California)
 - right Lewis Creek, Grizzly Creek[disambiguation needed]
Source Near Mount Bolton Brown
 - location Sierra Nevada
 - elevation 12,352 ft (3,765 m)
 - coordinates 37°01′40″N 118°26′49″W / 37.02778°N 118.44694°W / 37.02778; -118.44694 [1]
Mouth Kings River
 - location Kings Canyon
 - elevation 2,257 ft (688 m)
 - coordinates 36°50′18″N 118°52′30″W / 36.83833°N 118.87500°W / 36.83833; -118.87500 [1]
Length 45 mi (72 km)
Basin 460 sq mi (1,191 km2)
Discharge for Cedar Grove, Fresno County, California
 - average 656 cu ft/s (19 m3/s)
 - max 13,900 cu ft/s (394 m3/s)
 - min 62.1 cu ft/s (2 m3/s)

The South Fork Kings River is an important tributary of the Kings River in the U.S. state of California. It joins the Middle Fork Kings River to form the main stem of the Kings. It is famous for flowing through Kings Canyon, a 10,000-foot (3,000 m) deep glacial canyon in the heart of Kings Canyon National Park, and Cedar Grove, a valley said by some to resemble world-famous Yosemite Valley farther north in Yosemite National Park.

The river is 45 miles (72 km) long and flows south for the first part of its course, then west for the remainder. It drains an area of some 460 square miles (1,200 km2). Important tributaries include Woods and Bubbs Creeks, and the Roaring River. Settlements on the river include Kanawyers and Cedar Grove. State Route 180 follows about 25 miles (40 km) of the lower river.

There are plenty of records of Chinook Salmon presence 10–12 miles above Pine Flat before the 1940s and even some after that in Mill Creek in the 1970s (see Historical and Present Distribution of Chinook Salmon in the Central Valley Drainage of California, Pages 81 to 84, Ronald M. Yoshiyama, Eric R. Gerstung, Frank W. Fisher, Fish Bulletin 179, 2001 Woodhull and Dill (1942) noted that salmon ascend about 10 to 12 mi beyond the present upper extent of the reservoir and salmon migration in the Kings River probably ascended no farther than the confluence of the North Fork. Yoshiyama and Moyle also noted that there is an undocumented note of “a few salmon” having occurred much farther upstream at Cedar Grove (28 mi above present-day Pine Flat Reservoir) in the past.

Kings River (Fresno County). Spring and fall runs of Chinook salmon are known to have occurred at least periodically in the Kings River, the southernmost Central Valley stream that supported salmon. In the past, the Kings River flowed into the northeast part of Tulare Lake, and its waters occasionally ran into the San Joaquin River during wet periods when water levels became high enough in Tulare Lake to overflow and connect the two drainages (Carson 1852; Ferguson 1914). Streamflows would have been greatest during the spring snow melt period, so it is most likely that the spring run was the predominant run to occur there. Spring-run salmon would have had to ascend to high enough elevations (probably >1,500 ft) to avoid excessive summer water temperatures, going above the area presently covered by Pine Flat Reservoir. The 82 Fish Bulletin 179: Volume One mainstem upstream of Pine Flat Reservoir is of low gradient (E.R. Gerstung, personal observation) and free of obstructions for some distance (P. Bartholomew, personal communication), so salmon probably were able to ascend about 10 to 12 mi beyond the present upper extent of the reservoir. The bulk of salmon migration in the Kings River probably ascended no farther than the confluence of the North Fork (Woodhull and Dill 1942), which we take as the upper limit. There is an undocumented note of “a few salmon” having occurred much farther upstream at Cedar Grove (28 mi above present-day Pine Flat Reservoir) in the past—”before Pine Flat Dam was constructed” (DFG unpublished notes). However, it is not clear if salmon actually could have reached that far, due to the presence of extensive rapids below around the area of Boyden Cave (3,300 ft elev.) and below Cedar Grove. The North Fork Kings River is very steep shortly above its mouth, and salmon most likely did not enter it to any significant distance (P. Bartholomew, personal communication, see “Notes”). Source:

Currently (2012) the California Department of Fish and Game fish data base from their surveys indicate that only rainbow trout, brown trout and Sacramento sucker are found in the South Fork Kings River (Source: Stephanie Mehalick, CDF&G). However, [according to Stephens, McGuire, and Sims (Sept. 17, 2004) "Conservation Assessment and Strategy for the California Golden Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita) Tulare County, California, p.3] "It will be necessary to thoroughly evaluate the genetics of all suspected non-hybridized stocks of California golden trout and conduct a thorough search of the upper Kern River, South Fork Kings River and other basins to find all available genetically uncontaminated populations, in order to assure a non-hybridized, yet appropriately broad California golden trout gene pool within the new habitats." This is because "... many of the waters in the headwaters of the South Fork Kings River and several tributary streams and lakes were also planted with California golden trout from GTC (Golden Trout Creek) between 1909 and 1914. Sam Ellis, one of the CDFG employees responsible for many trout transplants from GTC, kept a map of 1870 to 1915 trout transplants from GTC to waters elsewhere in the southern Sierra Nevada. Information on the map shows locations, dates and species of trout planted in the southern Sierra Nevada. Based on this map, information from other sources (Ellis 1915; Ellis and Bryant 1920)..."

In 1998, the Friends of the South Fork Kings River ( ) adopted the South Fork Kings River Watershed through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EPA is leading an “Adopt Your Watershed” campaign to encourage citizens to protect pristine rivers such as the South Fork Kings. “Adoption” means any citizen based effort to restore or protect a watershed, river or lake.

Here is how EPA answers the question: “What is a watershed? No matter where you live, you live in a watershed. A watershed is the land area that drains to a single body of water such as a stream, lake, wetland or aquifer (an underground layer of water). Watersheds come in many different sizes. A few acres might drain into a small stream or wetland, or a few large rivers might drain into an estuary—where fresh water and salt water mix. The actions of people who live in a watershed affect the health of the waters that run through it. Rainfall and snowmelt wash chemicals, fertilizers, sediment, and other pollutants from the land into water bodies. To achieve healthy watersheds, EPA needs the help of people like you!” Examples of adoption activities include:

  • Volunteering to monitor water quality
  • Marking or stenciling storm drains
  • Organizing stream cleanups
  • Planting trees along eroding stream banks
  • Hosting a water festival
  • Working with local government agencies and others that make water quality decisions
  • Tracking the development and implementation of Total Maximum Daily Loads (i.e., pollution budgets) and watershed plans

If you have access to Facebook, you can view many photos of the South Fork Kings River and the recent efforts of the Friends of the South Fork Kings River here:

See also[edit]