Paddle the Parks: Sequoia National Park

Big trees and big thrills

By Darin McQuoid

Sequoia National Park is best known as home to the largest single living organism, General Sherman Sequoia. This park was established on September 25, 1890, making it it one of the oldest in the books, yet it also has the most progressive attitude toward whitewater. That’s a good thing for kayakers, because SEKI (Sequoia is now merged with Kings Canyon) contains two of California’s finest Class V runs, the Kaweah River and the Middle Kings.

With headwaters over 12,000 feet, the Kaweah is the steepest run in the whitewater mecca that is the High Sierra. After just over 20 miles, the river’s at the valley floor, below 1,000 feet. The most popular section is named after the put-in landmark: Hospital Rock. Just over two miles long, this section (highlighted above) packs an incredible punch with no flatwater or portages; just nonstop action. Coupled with roadside access and a five-minute shuttle, this is a favorite for both locals and international paddlers.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Middle Fork Kings. A five-day wilderness trip with elevations ranging from 12,000 to 900 feet, this run is the stuff of legends. Despite being overused terminology, the Middle Kings is the very definition of epic with paddlers traveling around the world just to make a once-in-a-lifetime descent.

Not into the gnar? That’s OK too. Just inside the park entrance at Ash Mountain is the hidden gem of California’s Class IV: the Gateway section shown in the video below.

Click the links below to read about paddling adventures in a few of our favorite parks around the country:

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Big Bend National Park

Float through an isolated wilderness on the edge of Texas and Mexico

The Missouri National Recreational River

A journey through time in South Dakota and Nebraska

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Paddle over the horizon line of waterfalls in Tennessee and North Carolina

Wrangell St. Elias National Park

Paddle through a seascape of water and ice in southeast Alaska

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Explore Lake Superior’s panoramic coastline in Michigan

Ozark Scenic Riverways

A secret worth sharing in Missouri

Channel Islands National Park

Experience isolation 40 miles south of Santa Cruz, California

Grand Canyon National Park

Experience America’s 2 billion-year-old river canyon in Arizona

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The complete list of our favorite national parks for paddling

— Related | 35 More Favorite Parks

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