US Army Corps of Engineers
Sacramento District Website


Lake Kaweah


Lake Kaweah was formed by the construction of Terminus Dam on the Kaweah River in 1962 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide flood damage reduction and water conservation. While the lake provides a multitude of activities for visitors, the water retained in the reservoir is 100 percent agricultural water for California’s south central valley – well known for its agricultural production.

Terminus Dam was originally constructed as an earthen dam and was later expanded on utilizing 21-foot-tall fusegates, the largest in the country. The addition of the fusegates allows for an additional 43,000 acre feet of water storage as well as providing additional flood control. The fusegates are visible from the Lemon Hill Recreation Area, and dam tours can be scheduled by contacting the project office headquarters. During the spring run-off season Lake Kaweah can store a total of 185,630 acre feet of water. Energy production was added in 1990 with the construction of the Terminus Power Plant. The hydroelectric plant produces an average of 40 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, which is equivalent to 67,000 barrels of oil.

The lake is located only a few miles outside of the Sequoia National Park gates on highway 198 making it a popular day use location for travelers who are looking to stretch their legs, have a picnic, or find out more about the area. The Visitor Center at the Lemon Hill Recreation Area is a great place to gather information on both the lake and the national park, and you will also find the Sequoia Parks Conservancy gift shop inside. Also located in the Visitor Center is the Tulare County Boat Patrol office for any state or county regulation questions.

Lake Kaweah has many attractions, such as their campfire programs that take place during the summer season for the campers of Horse Creek Campground. The large surface-area of the reservoir makes it popular for boating activities, and the river feeding the reservoir in the Slick Rock Recreation area is perfect for wildlife viewing in the Spring and Fall seasons.


Mailing Address:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Lake Kaweah/Terminus Dam
P.O. Box 44270
Lemon Cove, CA 93244-4270

Telephone:
Visitor Center: 559-597-2005
Office: 559-597-2301
FAX 559-597-2468

E-mail:
kaweah-info@usace.army.mil

Office Hours: (subject to change)
Monday - Friday 7:45 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday 7:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Lemon Hill Visitor Center Hours:
Monday - Friday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Directions:
From Visalia, follow Highway 198 east toward the project.


Boat launch facilities and day-use recreation areas are open. Use of the swim beach, playground, campgrounds and group picnic shelters is prohibited and the project office remains closed to visitors.

All 2020 camping reservations have been refunded through Recreation.gov. We are working with our federal, state and local partners to determine a reopening date and want to ensure the public and our staff are as safe as possible. Once we have established a reopening date, visitors will once again be able to make reservations through​ Recreation.gov.

 Recreation Area Services Status


Day Use:
Picnicking can be enjoyed at all accessible areas of the project. Lemon Hill, Kaweah, Slick Rock and Horse Creek recreation areas have tables and potable water. Swimming is permitted at your own risk around the lake but is prohibited at posted areas near the marina, boat ramps and the dam's intake structure. 

Camping:
Some Lake Kaweah campgrounds are flooded during parts of the year when the lake level is high, so please call the project office to confirm availability. Horse Creek Campground has 80 campsites, restrooms with flush toilets, showers, and a trailer dump station. Campsites are equipped with tables and fire rings.

Fire restrictions vary by recreation area throughout the year, so please confirm current guidelines with project staff before building fires. Eight people are permitted per campsite and there is a 14-day limit per 30-day period.

Campfire programs are presented at the Horse Creek Amphitheater on Saturday nights from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

To reserve a site, visit Recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.

Events:
Please call project headquarters as events are subject to change.

Campfire Programs: Every Saturday Evening at 7 p.m., Horse Creek campground, beginning June through late August. Programs vary in content from fire safety, to reptiles, to astronomy!

National Public Lands Day: Last Saturday of September, Annually. Join us during this nationwide event to pay tribute to our public lands by cleaning, maintaining, and improving facilities and plants while enjoying company, good food, exhibits, and live local music.

Regional Fairs: Porterville Fair in May; Tulare Fair in September; Fresno Fair in October. Lake Kaweah is active at almost all local fairs and festivals, presenting ranger-led exhibits as well as educational and entertaining events for the public relating to water safety and Natural Resources in the area.

Boating:
The lake offers a variety of opportunities for water-skiing, sailing, and pleasure boating. Launch ramps are located in the Kaweah, Lemon Hill and Slick Rock recreation areas.

The Lake Kaweah Marina at Lemon Hill offers boating and camping supplies, fishing tackle, a snack bar, boat rentals and fuel. Call 559-597-2526 for marina information.

For information about boating registration and operating regulations, contact the Tulare County Boat Patrol Office at 559-597-2437.

Fishing:
Lake Kaweah offers both lake and stream fishing. Largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, and rainbow trout are the most common. Bass, limit 2, must be a minimum of 15" long before they can be kept by the angler. Fishing licenses and supplies can be purchased in nearby towns.

Fees:

  • Camping - $20
  • Day Use - $5
  • Annual Pass - $40

The Corps of Engineers participates in the America the Beautiful-Federal Recreational Lands Pass Series. The series includes the; Annual Pass, Every Kid Outdoors Pass available to 4th graders, Annual Senior Pass, Lifetime Senior Pass, Lifetime Access Pass, Volunteer Pass, and Military Pass. Be sure to pick up your America the Beautiful pass at any of our Corps projects as the money is directly invested back into the facilities to improve your recreational experience. Get more details about the pass series here.

The Annual Pass is a onetime purchase of $80. You will have access to all of your favorite Corps recreation areas and participating federal agencies public lands. The Annual Pass is good for one year from the date of purchase.

Individuals 62 years and older have the choice of purchasing an Annual Senior Pass for $20 which is good for one year from the date of purchase, or a Lifetime Senior Pass for $80, which does not expire. Senior and Access Pass holders also receive a 50 percent discount on campsites at Corps-managed campgrounds.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also sells their Corps Annual Pass for $40. The Corps Annual Pass gives unlimited access to day-use areas at any Corps project for one calendar year at the date of purchase.

Historical Information:
Lake Kaweah is fed by the Kaweah River, which originates in the Sierra Nevada at Sequoia National Park. The three smaller forks of the river join together forming the larger Kaweah River a few miles upstream in the town of Three Rivers. Long ago many Native Americans occupied this area; the Yokuts, Wukchumne, and Kaweah people lived and hunted along this river. Spaniards were the first Europeans to explore this area two centuries ago. Settlers arrived fifty years later in the Three Rivers area. Cattleman Hale Tharp started a ranch at the confluence of the Kaweah River and Horse Creek in 1856. He lived there until his death in 1912. Several landmarks still bear his name. During Tharp’s stay, the Three Rivers area became an idealistic settlement of ranchers, farmers, miners and traders. When the water in the reservoir lowers, a number of foundations of former homes from this time are visible. The development of the national park brought tourists and fortune to the town and has since grown into the town we see today.


Please help us make everyone's visit enjoyable by:

  • Watching children closely when around water.
  • Keeping your pets on a leash at all times.
  • Keeping fires confined to grills and pits and using only dead and down wood.
  • Maintaining quiet hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Operating vehicles only on designated roads and parking areas provided.
  • Camping only in designated campsites.
  • Helping clean up litter and keeping a neat campsite.
  • Reporting safety hazards to project staff.
  • Reading the project rules, copies of which are posted throughout the facility.

All areas are patrolled by Corps of Engineers park rangers and deputies of the Tulare County Sheriff's Department. If you need help, contact a park ranger or deputy sheriff, or dial 9-1-1.

Corps Recreation Across our Nation

Volunteer at a Corps Recreation Area

State Hunting & Fishing Regulations

Recreation on Federal Lands

Project Documents:

Rules and Regulations: Title 36 - Parks, Forests, and Public Property Chapter III - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Part 327 - Rules and regulations governing public use of Water Resources Development Projects administered by the Chief of Engineers.