THE KINGS RIVER THROUGH HISTORY

by J. Randall McFarland

 

The river was discovered and named Río de los Santos Reyes (river of the Holy Kings) by a party of Spanish explorers in 1805, according to Padre Munoz’s diary of the Moraga expedition of 1806. The first party probably reached the river on January 6, the festival of the three Magi; hence the name. Padre Cabot used the name Río de Reyes in 1814 a form, which appears on Estudillo’s map of 1819 and on later maps. Jedediah Smith in 1827, ignorant of the Spanish name, called it the Wim-mel-che, for the Indians living on the river. Fremont reached the river on April 8, 1844, at a time of the year when most of the flood flow passes southward to Tulare Lake. Hence he called it “River of the Lake”. After he learned of the Spanish name, he spoke of “Río Reyes of Tulare Lake” Prcuss labeled the stream on both of his maps “Lake Fork”, a name also used by Fremont. Derby’s map and Williamson’s report have the translation King’s River, but the statutes of 1852 as well as Bibbes’, Blake’s and Eddy’s maps have the modern version.

 

TIMELINE - 1800 - 1899

 

1800
1805


1840
1846

1850
1850
1852
1852-55
1854
1856
1856
About 1858

1860
1861
1863
1866
1867
1868
1869

1870
1870-71
1872
1872

1872
1873
1874
1875
1877
1878

 


1880
1882
1882-83
1883
1885-88
1885-86
1887
1888
1889

 


1890
1890
1891
1892
1892-93
1893
1895-1900
1896
1897
1898-1917
1898
1899


Gabriel Moraga, on January 5, discovers and names El Rio de los Santos Reyes, River of the Holy Kings.

Rancho Laguna de Tache land grant made by Mexico along lower Kings River.


California achieves statehood. All of Kings River is initially within Mariposa County.
Tulare County organized.
Poole’s Ferry (north of modern Reedley) in operation.
Whitmore’s Ferry established at Kingston.
Fresno County organized.
Smith’s Ferry established at modern Reedley.
First Kings River diversions, Centerville Bottoms.

Massive flood begins to form Cole Slough channel.
First Centerville Ditch developed.
First Kings River water claim filed.
Largest Kings River flood ever observed, completes Cole Slough formation.
Dutch John Cut (east of Laton) initially developed as small ditch.
Kings River first bridged at Kingston (west of modern Laton).

Fresno, Lemoore canals developed.
Gould Canal developed.
Zalda Canal developed near Riverdale; floodwaters later enlarged the canal into what became the Kings River’s North Fork.
Central Pacific Railroad establishes Fresno, bridges Kings River.
People’s Ditch, Grant Canal developed.
Last Chance Ditch developed.
Lone Tree Channel, Riverdale Ditch developed.
Centerville and Kingsburg Canal developed.
Tulare Lake fills and spills through Summit Lake and into Fresno Slough and
San Joaquin River for last time.


Liberty Canal, Liberty Millrace Ditch developed.
’76 (Alta), Fowler Switch canals developed.
Drought-year lawsuits assert riparian rights; Fresno Canal brush dam blown up.
Water users lose riparian cases.
Crescent Canal developed.
Wright Act authorizes formation of irrigation
Alta Irrigation District organized.
Stinson Canal organized.

Burrel Ditch developed.
Reed Ditch established.
Fresno Canal & Irrigation Company buys lower river riparian lands, water rights.
Original James Canal developed.
Kings County formed, named for river.
First Tulare Lake bed canals developed as lake recedes.
English financiers take over Fresno Canal Company, Laguna lands.
First water entitlement schedule covers low flows.
Fresno Canal Company’s I. Teilman administers river.
Tulare Lake empties for first time.
First practical agricultural pumping.

 

1900 - 1999

 

1900
1901
1902
1903

1906

1910
1912-14
1914
1915
1916
1918
1919

1920
1920
1920
1921
1921
1923
1923-24
1925
1926
1927
1927
1928

1930
1931
1932
1933-36
1936
1937
1938-44

1940
1940
1940
1944
1946
1947
1949
1949
1949-50

1950
1950
1950
1951
1953
1953
1954
1954
1955
1958
1959

1960
1961
1963
1964
1965
1965
1967
1968-69
1969
1969

 


1970
1972
1973
1975
1976-77
1977
1977
1977
1978
1979
1979

1980
1980
1982
1984
1985
1986
1987
1987-92

1990
1991
1991-99
1993
1995

1997
1999

 


First surveys for Pine Flat Dam.
Island flume built across Cole Slough near Kingsburg.
Fresno Canal Company buys Consolidated Canal Company; effectively controls half of Kings River service area.
Major flood event.


James Bypass developed to avoid meandering Fresno Slough channel.
Movement begins to develop Pine Flat Dam.
Legislature passes Pine Flat-KRCD Act; district is not organized.
Stratford Irrigation District formed.
Tranquillity Irrigation District formed.
Charles Kaupke becomes interim watermaster.


Reclamation of Summit Lake area completed southwest of Riverdale.
Fresno, Laguna, James and Riverdale irrigation districts formed.
Consolidated Irrigation District formed.
Water users ask state to develop temporary water diversion schedule.
First trial water entitlement schedule.
Worst Kings River drought on record.
Unsuccessful attempt made to form Kings River Water Storage District.
Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District formed.
KRWA and permanent entitlement schedules established.
First Kings River power plant developed at Balch Camp.
Riparian rights subjected to reasonable beneficial uses.


Empire West Side Irrigation District formed.
First groundwater recharging by Consolidated Irrigation District.
KRWA proposes that CVP develop Pine Flat Dam.
Congress assigns flood control to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Major flood events in February, November.
KRWA campaigns for Corps, not USBRCVP, to build Pine Flat Dam.


Corps, USBR complete Pine Flat feasibility studies.
Kings Canyon National Park formed, excludes reservoir sites in Cedar Grove, Tehipite Valley.
Flood Control Act authorizes Pine Flat as Corps project.
President Truman orders USBR to negotiate Pine Flat contracts.
Ground broken on Pine Flat Dam.
New master Kings River agreement signed.
Pine Flat Dam construction under way.
Legislative bid to place Kings River in CVP.

KRWA launches effort to form Kings River Conservation District.
Last major uncontrolled Kings River flood event.
KRCD established, ratified by voters.
KRCD negotiates interim Pine Flat contracts.
First Pine Flat Reservoir water storage.
Pine Flat Dam completed.
Kings River weather modification program begins.
Record Kings River flood flow captured safely in Pine Flat Reservoir.
PG&E completes Wishon, Courtright lakes and new North Fork power plants.
KRCD assumes lower river channel, levee operation, maintenance.


Interior Department makes bid to impose Reclamation Law, acreage limitation on Kings River.
Permanent Pine Flat contracts, new master Kings River agreement signed.
KRWA-CDFG fishery agreement signed.
Cedar Grove, Tehipite Valley reservoir sites annexed to Kings Canyon National Park.
KRCD, KRWA move into new Jensen Avenue offices.
State Board grants Kings River water rights permits.
First segment of levee, channel improvements developed.
State Board declares Kings to be “fully appropriated.”
Huge snowpack prompts largest-ever Pine Flat releases into river, 17,000 c.f.s.

Kings River appears to prevail in Reclamation Law test case.
Energy crisis spurs interest by KRCD in new power, reservoir projects.
Preliminary Federal Power Commission permit given for Pine Flat Power Plant.
Back-to-back critical drought years.
KRCD, KRWA agree on Pine Flat Power Plant water use.
KRCD voters authorize Pine Flat Power Plant bonds.
U.S. Supreme Court upholds Reclamation Law imposition.
KRCD applies to FERC for Dinkey Creek Power Project.
Pine Flat Power Plant EIS completed.
Pine Flat Power Plant water rights permit granted by state board.


Pine Flat Power Plant construction begins.
Congress relieves Kings River of Reclamation Law compliance.
Pine Flat Power Plant completed, dedicated.
Rodgers Crossing Dam feasibility study begins.
Lack of power buyer halts Dinkey Creek Project.
Federal legislation halts Rodgers Crossing Project.
Worst extended sequential critical drought of record.


Public trust complaint filed on fishery issues.
KRCD, KRWA pursue long-term fishery solution.
KRCD begins active involvement in Corps environmental studies.
KRCD forms the first of three Groundwater Management Areas to aid in effort to improve groundwater resources. 1997: Record calculated flow, 112,000 c.f.s., on January 3; Pine Flat Dam prevents downstream flooding.
KRCD, KRWA join CDFG in establishing Kings River Fisheries Management Program.

 

2000 - Present

2000
2000

2001-2002
2001

2001
2001
2001

2001
2001

2001-03
2002
2002
2002

2002
2003


Thorburn Spawning Channel constructed near Piedra as first Kings River Fisheries Management Program project.
Several Kings River fishery habitat improvement projects undertaken.
Energy crisis prompts KRCD to take new look at Dinkey Creek, Rodgers Crossing projects but both projects are ultimately placed back on the shelf.
KRCD begins study of public power ownership.
Corps study finds federal interest in Pine Flat multi-level intake structure.
KRWA, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California begin studies of possible joint floodwater utilization projects.
KRCD commemorates 50th anniversary.
KRCD begins studies on how to increase availability, reliability and affordability of electrical energy within the Valley.
Corps of Engineers constructs Turbine Bypass at Pine Flat Dam.
KRWA begins installing telemetry at key locations to aid in water management.
KRWA commemorates 75th anniversary.
KRWA and KRCD lead organization of Southern San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition.
KRCD reaches agreement with state DWR to construct two gas-fired “peaker” power generating plants.
Pine Flat Dam Turbine Bypass System is completed and dedicated.

(c) El Rio Reyes Conservation Trust 2015

(c) El Rio Reyes Conservation Trust 2017