Whitewater River (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)|
|- location||South of Mecca, Riverside County|
|- elevation||-233 ft (-71 m)|
|Length||53.9 mi (87 km) |
|Basin||1,500 sq mi (3,885 km2)|
|- average||3.53 cu ft/s (0 m3/s) |
|- max||11,400 cu ft/s (323 m3/s)|
|- min||0 cu ft/s (0 m3/s)|
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.
San Bernardino Mountains
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. 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.
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. During rare floods, surface water may reach the endorheic basin of the Salton Sea, below sea level.
- "Whitewater River". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. 1981-01-19. Retrieved 2011-07-07.
- U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed March 16, 2011
- "USGS Gage #10259300 on the Whitewater River near Indio". National Water Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. 1966-present. Retrieved 2011-07-07.
- Howser, Huell; Levy, Tom; Kenna, Jim (September 25, 2001). "Whitewater – Palm Springs Week (003)". California's Gold. Chapman University Huell Howser Archives. OCLC 47732513.
- Wildlands Conservancy Whitewater Preserve
- http://www.pe.com/localnews/banning/stories/PE_News_Local_D_whitewater20.167f567.html[dead link]
- Bureau of Land Management – Whitewater resources[dead link]
- The Trust for Public Land: Whitewater
- Howser, Huell (September 3, 2010). "Whitewater Preserve – California's Golden Parks (167)". California's Golden Parks. Chapman University Huell Howser Archive.