Don Bain's 360° Panoramas of
Kings Canyon, Sequoia and the Southern Sierra
Sierra National Forest, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Forest, California
The region I have defined here runs from the south edge of Yosemite all the way to the end of the Sierra Nevada range at Tehachapi Pass. It contains the headwaters and canyons of the San Joaquin, Kings, Kaweah, and Kern Rivers, both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, and the sprawling Giant Sequoia National Monument. There is no road running the length of this region, exploring it involves repeatedly following a road into the mountains until it ends, then coming down all the way to the foothills or even the San Joaquin Valley floor, and going up another mountain route. No road crosses this central part of the Sierra.
The giant Sequoias were discovered soon after the California Gold Rush, and their fame spread around the world. Every museum seemed to need a cross-section of a giant tree showing hundreds or thousands of rings. Lumbermen also had plans, and extensive logging in the Sequoia groves began early. The largest grove of all, in Converse Basin, was logged down to the last tree, the Boole Tree, which still stands today.
Sequoia was one of the first national parks, a response to the imminent threat of logging by the Marxists of the Kaweah Colony. A road was built up the steep mountainside from the Kaweah River to Giant Forest and tourists arrived in horse-drawn buggies and automobiles. Kings Canyon National Park came much later because of the potential for hydroelectric development of its great canyons.
Most of the rivers in this region have been developed for hydroelectric power. The South Fork of the San Joaquin and the adjacent North Fork of the Kings have especially complex systems.
Mount Whitney, highest in the conterminous US, is on the eastern border of Sequoia National Park. Both the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail traverse the high country north-south, through an unbroken chain of wilderness areas.