Holiday weekend was busy in Three Rivers, nearby national parks, Lake Kaweah but no major incidents


Lake Kaweah— For all the folks who boated, camped, fished, took a dip, or just relaxed somewhere at Lake Kaweah, the three-day Memorial Day weekend was remarkably uneventful unless you count the dozens of citations. Those cited mostly had ignored paying the $4 day-use fee, parked illegally, or had a fire in a no-fire zone.

At Lake Kaweah, that no-fire zone is pretty much everywhere unless it’s in an established fire ring. Other visitors learned the hard way that it is illegal to drink alcohol and operate a boat; it’s also illegal to consume alcohol at Slick Rock. 

At Slick Rock, the laws are in place: it is illegal to consume alcoholic beverages or have a barbecue there. But it never fails on a hot day, someone tries to light a fire in a grill and a grass fire is ignited. 

There was one such fire last weekend but it was extinguished by other visitors before fire department personnel arrived on the scene. This year, the more water in the basin equates to less tinder-dry grass nearby and less area for fires to ignite. 

The most water in the lake in the last five years has proved to be quite an attraction. As of Thursday, June 2, the lake had eclipsed 152,000 acre feet in storage 82 percent of capacity). That’s above the pre-2004 lake level (145,000 acre feet), and at approximately one foot per 24 hours is steadily moving upward to the fill line. 

The fill elevation at the spillway is 715 feet above mean sea level so it is conceivable that the lake could fill to the brim.

“That depends on Mother Nature and how much snow is actually left up there,” said Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah general manager. “I’m hearing reports that there is more than it looks but it is in the higher elevations so that’s a long way to travel.”

Phil said he will see the projections in a few days and know within a day or two when the lake will reach its maximum fill level for the year. Some of the enjoyment of managing all that water was sidetracked by the recent leaky pipe that caused the Terminus Dam tower to flood. 

The water caused a pipe to break and damaged the hydraulic power unit that controls the accurate measurement of the lake’s level and water releases. A temporary unit has been installed until the contracts are in place to permanently replace the equipment.

“The plan is to have that permanent fix completed by the start of the next flood season,” Phil said. “But right now we have all this water and that’s good news.”

The current inflow on Thursday was 1,489 cubic feet per second; outflow was 523 cfs, so downstream users are now getting water.

Twelve boat-in or walk-in sites remain open at Horse Creek Campground. The unique waterfront camping should be available through the next busy holiday weekend of July 1-4.      

Three Rivers— Trespassing in an attempt to get to the Kaweah River was the major headache in Three Rivers for Mark Frick, resident deputy. The BLM sent rangers so that relieved some of the pressure of having to patrol the farthest reaches of North Fork Drive.

But folks had to be cleared from private property at the Airport Bridge on Kaweah River Drive a few times, as well as other areas that are off limits to the public.

At Slicky, a privately owned swimming hole that is known for its public access, some bad apples ruined it for the rest of the bunch when blue paint was discovered on a large riverside boulder. That was the final straw for property owner Gary Cort, who closed the area via a note attached to a fence post. 

Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks— Here are the most serious of the incidents that occurred during the long weekend in the local parks:

A 12-inch diameter tree fell across the Wolverton Road, obstructing one lane of traffic. 

A group of hikers texted their family to indicate they were trapped on the summit of Mount Whitney overnight without the proper gear. They stated that their phone battery was almost dead and that they might not be able to make contact again. A rescue was conducted via helicopter to the summit of Whitney where no one was found in distress. The helicopter flew along the trail to Whitney Portal and no one was found in distress here either. The party contacted the park the next day to state they had hiked to safety that morning.

In Grant Grove, heavy traffic coupled with construction created gridlock at times in the Grant Grove Village. Grant Tree parking was beyond capacity at times and the road to the Grant Tree had to be closed for a short period of time.

The campgrounds at Grant Grove and Cedar Grove filled to capacity, as did most of the campgrounds in Sequoia National Park and Giant Sequoia National Monument.

Stormy weather each afternoon did little to deter the parks’ visitors. Visitation should continue to be high as the National Park Service has heavily promoted its 100th anniversary. 

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