The Kaweah River of old was like the wild mustang that once roamed our valley—uncontrolled, free spirited, and dangerous, often running at breakneck speed on the Valley floor. And just like the early bronco buster who tamed the wild steed, in 1962, engineers harnessed this wild river by building Terminus Dam and creating Lake Kaweah—an act that, for the most part, put an end to the destructive force of the river. Its reign of terror was finally over, and there was a collective sigh of relief. And for the last 60 years, this much-anticipated man-made body of water has been on the map of Tulare County. The lake began with the river by the same name. For hundreds, possibly thousands of years, indigenous people fished its waters and lived on its banks. It wasn’t always called Kaweah River. According to some sources, the native people called it Pi-piyunna. When the Spanish explorers came, they called it Rio San Francisco, and still other Spaniards named it Rio San Gabriel. When U.S. Army Lieutenant George Derby surveyed the area in 1850, he referred to it as the River Francis (or Frances). As American settlers arrived, the name changed again, this time to Kaweah, named in honor of the tribe of Yokuts Indians called Kaweah, or Gawea, who lived nearby.

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