Local tourist business cooking on high heat


If you own a local eatery, a store, hotel/motel, a vacation rental, or any other business that caters to tourists, then you are reaping the rewards of one of the best seasons in the past two decades. The dry, warm weather is not discouraging tourists from coming to Kaweah Country, and they’ve been coming in unprecedented numbers since the beginning of 2015. 

Establishments all along Sierra Drive in Three Rivers are experiencing the usual busy July influx of visitors, but since February the ledger has included significant gains that just keep improving with each succeeding month.

“We’re up quite a bit over last year,” said Dorletta Hildebrand, who with her husband Rex, owns and operates the River View Restaurant and Lounge.

After nearly two decades in business here, the River View still remains a family-friendly and affordable place to eat and drink, Dorletta said recently. They love to welcome visitors but it’s the locals who have supported the popular watering hole year in and year out, she said.

Sierra Subs and Salads reported new record handles on several days this year that weren’t even in the traditionally busiest two months of July and August. 

“I think in part the increase is due to the advertising that the national parks did after 2013’s shutdown,” said Dane Millner, who with his wife, Allison, owns Sierra Subs. “The more people that find out about Three Rivers, the more who visit, and that means greater revenue for all local businesses.”

Dane said before coming here he lived in San Diego and never heard that a Three Rivers even existed. Now, he says, with the fee-free days and all the celebrations more visitors are learning that this is a great, not-so-crowded place to visit.

Neighboring newcomer Ol’ Buckaroo, who opened their riverside eatery a year ago, is benefitting too. They are the epitome of the little food truck that could and are exceeding all their own expectations. 

“We’re crazy busy,” said T.R. Bousek, co-owner of Ol’ Buckaroo with his wife, Nicky French. “Our business on these warm weather nights has been off the charts.”

Up at The Gateway, it’s the same story. Search their website for lodging availability and it’s practically impossible to find two consecutive vacant nights in any unit for the rest of the summer. Ditto at the Buckeye Tree Lodge and Comfort Inn.

Delaware North’s Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park and John Muir Lodge in the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park are booked solid all the way through October. 

Speaking in front of a Sequoia Natural History Association gathering of civic officials and park boosters in Visalia on Tuesday, July 14, Woody Smeck, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, revealed a reason for the frenzy this season.

“This year, we expect to break visitation records at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks with over 1.7 million visitors,” Smeck said. “Visitor spending in our local economies exceeds over $151 million annually and supports 2,200 jobs.”

Superintendent Smeck concluded his remarks by asking all to do their part in promoting the parks and welcoming all Americans to experience the beauty and healing qualities of “these public treasures.”

Sequoia National Park will celebrate its 125th anniversary in September, and there are lots of activities being planned around that time that will further draw visitors to the Three Rivers area.

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