From the crest of the Sierra Nevada, the Middle and South Forks Kings River flows west through the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park to their confluence on National Forest lands. From there, another six miles of the main stem Kings continues west, forming the boundary of the Sierra and Sequoia National Forests. Congress added the entire Middle and South Forks of the Kings and six miles of the main stem to the federal system in 1987. The designation of the Kings, Kern, and Merced Rivers by Congress that year represents the single largest expansion of the federal system in California since 1981.
The Kings is one of the largest rivers in the Sierra Nevada and it flows through one of the deepest canyons in North America. Flowing through one of the most popular national parks in California, the Forest Service’s Monarch Wilderness, and a Special Management Area, the river possesses outstanding scenic, recreation, fish, cultural/historical, and geological values. The Middle Fork Kings River flows through Yosemite-like Tehipite Valley and the rugged Monarch Wilderness. Numerous highway accessible recreation sites and opportunities are available along the South Fork in Kings Canyon National Park. The marble wonders of Boyden Cave and the King’s deep canyon represent the river’s outstanding geology. The river support a healthy wild trout fishery that attracts anglers from throughout the region.
Wild and scenic protection of the Kings ends at the river’s confluence with Spring Creek. Another 12 miles of the river continues freely flowing downstream into the Sierra foothills, supporting similar scenic, recreation, fish, and other outstanding values. This unprotected segment features hiking on the Kings National Recreation Trail, as well as wild trout fishing, camping, and some of the best whitewater rafting and kayaking in the Sierra Nevada. The Roger’s Crossing dam project threatened this segment but Congress reserved the right to approve any dam project when it established the Kings River Special Management Area in the same legislation that designated the upstream river segments as wild and scenic. Much of the Special Management Area is roadless and could be added to the Monarch Wilderness, creating a protected migration route for animal and plant species from 1,000-14,000 feet in elevation in response to climate change.