Sierra National Forest

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Sierra National Forest
Lake of the Lone Indian JMW.jpg
Lake of the Lone Indian, John Muir Wilderness
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Map of the United States
LocationSierra Nevada Mountains
Nearest city Oakhurst, California
Coordinates 37°25′N119°10′W / 37.417°N 119.167°W / 37.417; -119.167 Coordinates: 37°25′N119°10′W / 37.417°N 119.167°W / 37.417; -119.167
Area1,300,000 acres (5,300 km2)
Established1893;129 years ago (1893)
Governing body U.S. Forest Service
Website Sierra National Forest

Sierra National Forest is a U.S. National Forest located on the western slope of central Sierra Nevada in Central California and bounded on the northwest by Yosemite National Park and the south by Kings Canyon National Park. The forest is known for its mountain scenery and beautiful lakes. Forest headquarters are located in Clovis, California. There are local ranger district offices in North Fork and Prather. [1]



Sierra National Forest was the second National Forest created in California and the largest at the time. It covered over six million acres (24,000 km2) of the Sierra Nevada and was about four times the average area of typical California National Forests. Originally it embraced parts of eight counties from Tuolumne on the north to Kern on the south and Mono and Inyo on the east. Initially its name was descriptive, but later when the Sierra was divided into different units this was no longer the case.

President Harrison proclaimed the Sierra Forest Reserve on February 14, 1893. Four years later the south half became a separate unit and was named Sierra South during the "forest reserves" era. This designation was dropped after the administrative transition to the National Forests on March 4, 1907. On July 1, 1908, the Sequoia National Forest, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks were established from this south portion of Sierra National Forest. Eastern portions of Sierra National Forest became the Inyo and Toiyabe National Forests; northern portions were used for Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest.

The first timber sale on a California National Forest took place in the Sierra NF by the General Land Office in 1899. [2]


Area map Sierra National Forest map.png
Area map

Sierra National Forest covers, in descending order of forestland area, the eastern portions of Fresno, Madera, and Mariposa counties, adjacent to the southern part of Yosemite National Park. It includes more than 1,300,000 acres (2,000 sq mi; 5,300 km2), at altitudes ranging from 900 to 13,986 feet (274 to 4,263 m) in elevation. The terrain includes rolling, oak-covered foothills, heavily forested middle elevation slopes and the tundra landscape of the High Sierra.


The forest's boundary starts clockwise at the intersections of the Merced River, Sweetwater Creek and HWY 140, then moves east following the Merced River canyon to the border with Yosemite National Park near El Portal. Then it follows the park's southern boundary till it reaches the Inyo National forest near Electra Peak. From there it travels south to its border with Kings Canyon National Park near Mount Goethe. It follows the park's northern border, then heads south to the Kings River near Deer Canyon. From there it moves down the Kings River canyon east; south of the river is the Sequoia National Forest. When it reaches Pine Flat Lake near Trimmer, it turns north towards Tollhouse and continues on to Auberry. From there Sierra National Forest moves on to North Fork, then west to form a small finger towards Coarsegold. Finally, the boundary travels north to Yosemite Forks and moves west towards Miami Mountain, then heads north to return to the Merced River.


The forest includes a number of scenic attractions, including Fresno Dome and Nelder Grove. Several reservoirs offer fishing and boating, including Bass Lake, Shaver Lake, Wishon Reservoir, and Courtright Reservoir. There are numerous hiking opportunities in wilderness areas: Ansel Adams, John Muir, Dinkey Lakes, Kaiser, and Monarch. There is also a ski resort, China Peak, that operates under a special use permit. Great sailing opportunities exist at Huntington Lake.


The Sierra National Forest is located within the Pacific Southwest region of the US Forest Service. The forest is divided into three Ranger Districts:

Bass Lake Ranger District is north and west of the San Joaquin River. Its Ranger District office is located at 57003 Road 225 North Fork, California, 93643. The district includes 36 camp sites, 17 picnic sites, 7 Off Highway Vehicle Trails, and 10 trails. It includes the Forest Service Offices of Oakhurst (40343 Hwy 41, Oakhurst, California 93644), and the Clover Meadow Wilderness Office.

High Sierra Ranger District is south and east of the San Joaquin River; it has its Ranger District office out of 29688 Auberry Rd P.O. Box 559 Prather, California 93651. This district contains 30 camp sites, 11 picnic sites, and 13 Off Highway Vehicle Trails. It also includes the following Forest Service Offices; the High Sierra visitor information station near Mono Hot Springs on the Kaiser Pass Road, Eastwood visitor information center at Hwy 168 and Kaiser Pass Road at Huntington Lake, Dinkey Creek visitor information center on Dinkey Creek Road near the Dinkey Creek Campground,

Supervisor's Office (an administrative Unit) contains the Sierra National Forest Supervisor's office (1600 Tollhouse Rd Clovis, California, 93611); the Yosemite Sierra Visitor Bureau (40343 Highway 41, Oakhurst, California 93644); and the Fresno Air Attack Base which is co-located with the Sierra National Forest Emergency Communications Center (2307 and 2309 N Clovis Ave, Fresno, California 93727) at Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

In addition, the forest has a close relationship with the Teakettle Experimental Forest which is deep inside the forest and the San Joaquin Experimental Range which is just outside the forest boundaries. They both fall in the Pacific Southwest Research Station which is based in Berkeley, California. [3]


The ecology of the National Forest is typical for the western side of the southern Sierra Nevada: distributions of species are largely governed by climate, which is strongly dependent on altitude. The ecology can be described by biotic zones, which are marked by either a tree indicator species, or by a lack of trees. The biotic zones include the foothill woodland zone from 1,000 to 3,000 feet (300 to 910 m) (interior live oak), the lower montane zone from 3,000 to 7,000 feet (910 to 2,130 m) (Ponderosa pine), the upper montane zone from 7,000 to 9,000 feet (2,100 to 2,700 m) (lodgepole pine/red fir), the subalpine zone from 9,000 to 9,500 feet (2,700 to 2,900 m) (whitebark pine), and the alpine zone from 9,500 feet (2,900 m) (above the tree line). [4]

Some 383,000 acres (598 sq mi; 1,550 km2) of the forest are old growth, containing lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) and red fir (Abies magnifica). [5]

See also

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John Muir Trail Trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California

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Kings Canyon National Park National park in California, United States

Kings Canyon National Park is an American national park in the southern Sierra Nevada, in Fresno and Tulare Counties, California. Originally established in 1890 as General Grant National Park, the park was greatly expanded and renamed to Kings Canyon National Park on March 4, 1940. The park's namesake, Kings Canyon, is a rugged glacier-carved valley more than a mile (1,600 m) deep. Other natural features include multiple 14,000-foot (4,300 m) peaks, high mountain meadows, swift-flowing rivers, and some of the world's largest stands of giant sequoia trees. Kings Canyon is north of and contiguous with Sequoia National Park, and both parks are jointly administered by the National Park Service as the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Sequoia National Park National park in the Sierra Nevada mountains, California, U.S.

Sequoia National Park is an American national park in the southern Sierra Nevada east of Visalia, California. The park was established on September 25, 1890, to protect 404,064 acres of forested mountainous terrain. Encompassing a vertical relief of nearly 13,000 feet (4,000 m), the park contains the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet (4,421 m) above sea level. The park is south of, and contiguous with, Kings Canyon National Park; both parks are administered by the National Park Service together as the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. UNESCO designated the areas as Sequoia-Kings Canyon Biosphere Reserve in 1976.

Kings River (California) River in central California, US

The Kings River is a 132.9-mile (213.9 km) river draining the Sierra Nevada mountain range in central California in the United States. Its headwaters originate along the Sierra Crest in and around Kings Canyon National Park and form the eponymous Kings Canyon, one of the deepest river gorges in North America. The river is impounded in Pine Flat Lake before flowing into the San Joaquin Valley southeast of Fresno. With its upper and middle course in Fresno County, the Kings River diverges into multiple branches in Kings County, with some water flowing south to the old Tulare Lake bed and the rest flowing north to the San Joaquin River. However, most of the water is consumed for irrigation well upstream of either point.

Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Forest is located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The U.S. National Forest is named for the majestic Giant Sequoia trees which populate 38 distinct groves within the boundaries of the forest.

Inyo National Forest

Inyo National Forest is a United States National Forest covering parts of the eastern Sierra Nevada of California and the White Mountains of California and Nevada. The forest hosts several superlatives, including Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States; Boundary Peak, highest point in Nevada; and the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest that protects the oldest trees in the world. The forest, encompassing much of Owens Valley, was established by Theodore Roosevelt as a way of sectioning off land to accommodate the Los Angeles Aqueduct project in 1907, making the Inyo National Forest one of the least wooded forests in the United States' system.

High Sierra Trail Long-distance hiking trail in the United States

The High Sierra Trail (HST) is a hiking trail in Sequoia National Park, California. The trail crosses the Sierra Nevada from west to east. According to the Yosemite Decimal System, the HST is a Class 1/Class 2 trail, which means simple scrambling, with the possibility of occasional use of the hands for balance.

Pine Flat Lake

Pine Flat Lake is an artificial lake or reservoir in the Sierra Nevada foothills of eastern Fresno County, California on the western north-south border to the Sierra- and Sequoia National Forests, about 30 mi (48 km) east of Fresno. The lake is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and is open to boaters, campers & hikers.

Kaweah River River in the United States of America

The Kaweah River is a river draining the southern Sierra Nevada in Tulare County, California in the United States. Fed primarily by high elevation snowmelt along the Great Western Divide, the Kaweah begins as four forks in Sequoia National Park, where the watershed is noted for its alpine scenery and its dense concentrations of giant sequoias, the largest trees on Earth. It then flows in a southwest direction to Lake Kaweah – the only major reservoir on the river – and into the San Joaquin Valley, where it diverges into multiple channels across an alluvial plain around Visalia. With its Middle Fork headwaters starting at almost 13,000 feet (4,000 m) above sea level, the river has a vertical drop of nearly two and a half miles (4.0 km) on its short run to the San Joaquin Valley, making it one of the steepest river drainages in the United States. Although the main stem of the Kaweah is only 33.6 miles (54.1 km) long, its total length including headwaters and lower branches is nearly 100 miles (160 km).

Jennie Lakes Wilderness Protected wilderness area in California, United States

Jennie Lakes Wilderness is a protected area in the Sierra Nevada, in Tulare County, California. It is located 60 miles (97 km) east of Fresno and managed by the US Forest Service.

South Sierra Wilderness Protected wilderness area in California, United States

The South Sierra Wilderness is a federally designated wilderness area in the Southern Sierra Nevada, in eastern California. It is located 65 miles (105 km) northeast of Bakersfield, and is southwest of Owens Lake and Olancha.

Monarch Wilderness Protected wilderness area in California, United States

The Monarch Wilderness is a federally designated wilderness area located 70 miles east of Fresno, California, in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It encompasses 44,896 acres (181.69 km2) within both the Sequoia National Forest and the Sierra National Forest and is managed by the United States Forest Service. Elevations range from 950 feet (290 m) to 11,081 ft (3,377 m).

Dinkey Lakes Wilderness Protected wilderness area in California, United States

The Dinkey Lakes Wilderness is a federally designated wilderness area located 45 miles (72 km) northeast of Fresno, in the state of California, United States. It comprises 30,000 acres (12,141 ha) within the Sierra National Forest and was added to the National Wilderness Preservation System by the California Wilderness Act of 1984.

South Fork Kings River

The South Fork Kings River is a 44.1-mile (71.0 km) tributary of the Kings River in the Sierra Nevada of Fresno County, California. The river forms part of Kings Canyon, the namesake of Kings Canyon National Park and one of the deepest canyons in North America with a maximum relief of 8,200 feet (2,500 m) from rim to river.

High Sierra Camps

The High Sierra Camps are nine rustic lodging facilities located in two national parks and a national monument in California's Sierra Nevada mountain range. Open most years from June or July to September, they are staffed camps with tent cabins and food service facilities. The backcountry camps receive their supplies by pack mules.

Dinkey Creek (California)

Dinkey Creek is a large stream in the southern Sierra Nevada, in Fresno County, California. The creek is 29.2 miles (47.0 km) long, flowing undammed in a southerly direction through the Sierra National Forest. It is a tributary of the North Fork Kings River, in turn part of the Kings River system which drains into the de-watered Tulare Lake bed.

The protected areas of the Sierra Nevada, a major mountain range located in the U.S. states of California and Nevada, are numerous and highly diverse. Like the mountain range itself, these areas span hundreds of miles along the length of the range, and over 14,000 feet of elevation from the lowest foothills to the summit of Mount Whitney.


  1. USFS Ranger Districts by State
  2. Godfrey, Anthony The Ever-Changing View-A History of the National Forests in California USDA Forest Service Publishers, 2005 p. 92
  3. Weekly Recreation Report
  4. Schoenherr, Allan A. (1992). A Natural History of California . University of California Press. ISBN   0-520-06922-6.
  5. Warbington, Ralph; Beardsley, Debby (2002). 2002 Estimates of Old Growth Forests on the 18 National Forests of the Pacific Southwest Region. United States Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region.