Whitewater River (California)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Whitewater River
Country  United States
State  California
 - left Mission Creek, Thousand Palms Wash, Box Canyon Wash
 - right San Gorgonio River, Chino Wash
Cities Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Palm Desert, Indio, Coachella, Mecca
Source Confluence of North and Middle Forks
 - location Near San Gorgonio Mountain, San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County
 - elevation 4,787 ft (1,459 m)
 - coordinates 34°03′48″N 116°44′50″W / 34.06333°N 116.74722°W / 34.06333; -116.74722 [1]
Mouth Salton Sea
 - location South of Mecca, Riverside County
 - elevation -233 ft (-71 m)
 - coordinates 33°30′30″N 116°03′26″W / 33.50833°N 116.05722°W / 33.50833; -116.05722Coordinates: 33°30′30″N 116°03′26″W / 33.50833°N 116.05722°W / 33.50833; -116.05722 [1]
Length 53.9 mi (87 km) [2]
Basin 1,500 sq mi (3,885 km2)
Discharge for Indio
 - average 3.53 cu ft/s (0 m3/s) [3]
 - max 11,400 cu ft/s (323 m3/s)
 - min 0 cu ft/s (0 m3/s)
The course of the Whitewater River highlighted on a map of the Salton Sea drainage basin

The Whitewater River is a small permanent stream in western Riverside County, California, except for a small upstream portion in southwestern San Bernardino County. Its headwaters are in the San Bernardino Mountains and 'mouth'—terminus in the Colorado Desert. The Whitewater River is in the endorheic Salton Sea drainage basin.

The community of Whitewater is named after the river. In 2001 Huell Howser Productions, in association with KCET/Los Angeles, featured the river and nearby community in California's Gold.[4]


San Bernardino Mountains[edit]

The Whitewater River has three significant tributaries: the North, Middle and South Forks.

The North Fork begins in the subalpine zone at about 10,000' (3,000 m.) on San Gorgonio Mountain and descends steeply southeast to the Middle Fork, which flows east through a wide arroyo. The South Fork flows northeast through a narrower wooded canyon, joining the Middle Fork lower down. The upper watershed is in the San Gorgonio Wilderness and San Bernardino National Forest, then it reaches land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Below the confluences the arroyo is at least 1/2 mile (1 km.) wide, paved with accumulations of boulders, gravel and sand brought down by floods and brushy except in stream channels cleared by floodwaters. Due to floods and shifting channels there is almost no riparian forest development, except very locally along unnamed minor tributaries with relatively stable channels.

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) enters the arroyo from the north and follows it downstream to a trailhead at the Whitewater Preserve, owned by The Wildlands Conservancy.[5] A few fish have escaped upstream, establishing a small population of wild but non-native Rainbow Trout. These fish are confined to places where there is shade or tributaries with cooler water. Apparently they are not sufficiently adapted to elevated summer temperatures to colonize the rest of the stream.

Coachella Valley[edit]

Below the PCT trailhead the enclosing hills fall away so the arroyo exits from the San Bernardino Mountains near Morongo Valley into the western Coachella Valley. It joins the San Gorgonio River which rises further west on the south side of San Gorgonio Mountain. Chino Creek, Tahquitz Creek, Palm Canyon Creek and Deep Creek also join, but the water mainly penetrates through the porous desert floor, providing groundwater recharging of the Coachella Valley aquifer.

Before approaching Palm Springs, the Whitewater River is fed imported water from the Colorado River Aqueduct, managed by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.[6] During rare floods, surface water may reach the endorheic basin of the Salton Sea, below sea level.


  1. ^ a b "Whitewater River". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 1981-01-19. Retrieved 2011-07-07. 
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed March 16, 2011
  3. ^ "USGS Gage #10259300 on the Whitewater River near Indio" (PDF). National Water Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. 1966-present. Retrieved 2011-07-07.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ Howser, Huell; Levy, Tom; Kenna, Jim (September 25, 2001). "Whitewater – Palm Springs Week (003)". California's Gold. Chapman University Huell Howser Archives. OCLC 47732513. 
  5. ^ Wildlands Conservancy Whitewater Preserve
  6. ^ http://www.pe.com/localnews/banning/stories/PE_News_Local_D_whitewater20.167f567.html[dead link]

External links[edit]