The Kaweah River, which flows from 13,000 ft peaks in the southern Sierra, is one of the shortest and steepest drainages in the Sierra. It offers excellent whitewater options for intermediate and advanced kayakers and rafters only a few hours from Los Angeles and a short drive from the southern Bay Area. The river is back-dropped by rolling hills and Sequoia National Park’s Morro and Alta Peaks. In the spring, when the Kaweah River runs, the wildflowers bloom abundantly and provide a spectacular river atmosphere.

The traditional run on the Kaweah River is an 8-mile Class IV section from the confluence with the East Fork Kaweah to Terminus Reservoir (Lake Kaweah) near the town of Three Rivers. One Class IV rapid after another makes the Kaweah one of the most continuous intermediate whitewater runs in California.

Just downstream of put-in the Class IV rapids begin with Class IV rapids Gateway, The Chute, and Osterizer Rapid followed by Willows, Lithium, Powerhouse, Cyanotic, and Screaming Right-hand Turn. Below Dinely Bridge is Suicide Falls, the Chair, and Upper and Lower Slicky. Water flows are determined by Sierra snowmelt and at higher flows (above 2500 cfs), the Kaweah River is a force to be reckoned with: it is notoriously a fast-moving, boat-flipping, thrilling run that will humble even expert boaters at times.

Because most of the land along the Kaweah River is privately owned, the challenge with private rafting or kayaking is finding a place to park, put-in and take-out. Just below the Hospital Rock section, private boaters can access the river at the bridge. Those with good negotiation skills might be able to find a put-in or take-out on private land.

Several other run options are available for advanced kayakers in the Kaweah River drainage. The Hospital Rock section (Class V+) flows right into the classic Kaweah run and provides steep, challenging whitewater for advanced boaters. Other forks of the Kaweah, including the North, South, and Middle Forks, as well as Yucca Creek and the Upper East Fork have been run only a handful of times by skilled kayakers when the flows were ideal.