Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Kaweah Oak Preserve

When we took the cattle through the swampy area (Heartbreak Trail) where three or four creeks and rivers flowed, I thought I would be eaten alive by mosquitoes. Did you know that most of the Central Valley of California in the 1700s and 1800s was a lush, swampy area, rich in plants and wildlife. The Indians lived in peace as there was never any reason to fight for food. Now, in the 21st century, the Central Valley is fighting for its life and dying under the worst drought ever recorded. The Indians and early settlers would never recognize it as the same place.

The Kaweah Oaks Preserve

the stream ("pond") where Mitch told me to go cool off one morning

The Kaweah Oaks Preserve is the remains of the last riparian forest (woodlands along rivers) in California. It has been preserved so visitors can imagine what the now-dry valley looked like 200 years ago, before the settlers came.  Today, the oak forest covers only 322 acres, but in Andi’s day valley oak, sycamore, cottonwood, willows, blackberries, and wild grape covered hundreds of square miles, from the base of the Sierra Nevada range to the banks of Tulare Lake. 

a Yokut dwelling
Early settlers called this land “The Swamp” because of frequent flooding and the high water table. The original people, the Yokut Indians, never made their homes in these wetlands but instead hunted, fished, and foraged for the wildlife and plant life they found here. The valley oaks in this area were also a source of the Yokuts’ most important food—acorns.
Abundant wildlife once thrived in these woodlands: birds—herons, hawks, owls, ducks, song birds, woodpeckers, crows, vultures, and quails; mammals—gray fox, bobcat, coyotes, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons,  opossums, and skunks; as well as insects, amphibians, and reptiles

By the mid-19th century, settlers were using this land mostly for cattle grazing, hunting, and wood-cutting. One family wanted to plant walnut trees in the area of the current preserve. Eventually, a dam was built in 1962, which put an end to the flooding, but the water table was too high to grow walnut trees successfully. Finally, the land was sold to a conservation group and has been kept just the way it was in the past.

If you have ever driven through the San Joaquin Valley around Visalia, you may find it hard to believe that this area was once teeming with water and wildlife. With a nickname like “The Swamp,” it is easy to see why I was plagued by countless mosquitoes when she traveled through this wet, woodlands region.


 If you would like a fun maze, help Andi get out of the Kaweah swamps in one piece. Download and print out the picture by clicking on it. Have fun!

a valley oak leaf


  1. Stephanie M. SmithfieldSeptember 23, 2015 at 10:09 AM

    Thank you for the post, I enjoyed it very much.

  2. Hi Mrs.M! you were going to post on Photo Gallery once a week, write?

    1. Uh . . . l didn't remember specifying any particular time thing. If I had I surely would have not flooded the Photo Gallery with all those pictures at once. LOL

      I'm out of town this Friday, but maybe a "Foto Friday" addition weekly would be fun. I"ll think about it and see if I can make it work.

  3. I liked this post. :)


Let Andi know what you think!