The Whitewater River is also an important ceremonial and cultural area for traditional Cahuilla Indians, who still visit the river to collect and gather native materials. Located in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, much of the upper watershed is virtually trail-less. The lower river is paralleled by a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). With easy access from Interstate 10, the Wildland Conservancy’s Whitewater River Preserve and reserve lands protected by Friends of Desert Mountains provide extensive opportunities for day hikes and wildlife viewing and a trailhead to the PCT. The Whitewater Preserve also offers interpretive programs for the public.
The 2019 John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act protected 28.1 miles of Whitewater River and its North, Middle and South Forks as a National Wild and Scenic River.