by Kristine Acopian
The Kaweah Oaks Preserve is located in our sweet home of Tulare County, just east of Visalia, and not far from the Kaweah River. According to the Sequoia Riverlands Trust website, the Kaweah Oaks Preserve spreads across 344 acres and is one of the few remaining valley oak riparian forests in the San Joaquin Valley.
The Preserve has many creeks, ditches, and trails and is home to many forms of life; some being cows, bulls, great horned owls, coyotes, lizards, squirrels, woodpeckers, gray foxes to name a few, as well as willow trees, and of course Oaks! As I went back to visit, the flood of memories began of all the times I had been there before and how each time my experience was different. Whether it was with a group of friends working on an art project or meeting brand new faces and volunteering together, this land holds memory, as if waiting patiently like a loyal friend to take your hand and show you what has been overlooked.
The land holds promise, if given the respect and kindness it deserves, and it will provide and support us. Now I say it, but I feel the correct choice of words would be he or she. It’s difficult not to feel an innocent presence when at the Kaweah Oak Preserve. It is truly a time capsule. One to hold all of the memories, not only of the land itself, but its surroundings—above, below, within, and without. You can easily imagine how over 100 years ago, the natives lived off the land. The Earth was bountiful, and though the challenges were still present, there was a greater connection to the land and to ourselves.
Walking down the trails that we have created, it provides a similar experience of peace and wonder within me. A sense of gratitude and appreciation take over and I am left in awe. I am reminded again, that we are all supported on our paths, whichever trail we take. Some may take the same loop multiple times, some may veer off to dangerous paths, and some may graze and just pause before taking any steps. It’s all written in the footprints we take and leave behind. Some take the “road less traveled” and others will blaze through the ones laid before them. Regardless of choice, there is an adventure to unfold.
Before I came to volunteer here at the Kaweah Oak Preserve with SRT (Sequoia Riverlands Trust), I had done some research and found out that in 1983, the local citizens partnered with The Nature Conservancy to buy and protect the land. Ten years later, The Nature Conservancy transferred the preserve title to a local conservation organization called The Four Creeks Lands Trust.
From there it merged to Sequoia Riverlands Trust. The SRT, in short, protects more than 20,000 acres of land and protects and manages six nature preserves. If you are interested, you may also volunteer with SRT, to preserve, rebuild, and protect what is truly essential to all of our lives. Volunteering to help preserve these sacred lands is not only beneficial for the environment, but for us. There have been many studies done to prove that being and working in nature not only can improve one’s vitality and happiness but can lift people out of their depression. Being in nature is not only essential to our physical health, but to our mental health as well. Working together as a community, brings us all together and releases the good chemicals in our brain that makes us feel fulfilled, safe, connected, and happy. You can find their office located at 427 South Garden Street or you can visit their website for more information.
Nature has its own will. Time and time again it has proven to mankind, there is a Greater Force that surpasses our control. We are here to tend the land, and if ignored or disrespected, the land will communicate back with us. In 2006, a fire broke out and 40 acres of the preserve was burned to the ground. However, that is not the only time. Unfortunately on June 3 of this year, our beautiful sacred land again experienced a fire which spread and burned 100 acres of the Sycamore Trail, which is now closed off to the public due to the dangerous condition the trail is in. As I walked a very similar path to the trail, there was a feeling of uneasiness. It was almost as if the Mother was telling me, this world will no longer be the same. This is a year of change and either we become loose limbs that leave and feel the least amount of damage or we hold onto the old ways and burn.
If you find yourself making your way out to preserve, you can expect a few things. You will see the most amazing Oak trees! At the very least squirrels and lizards will cross your path, and the cattle will be grazing along the land. Bring drinking water, sunscreen, and wear comfortable shoes. Always be alert to natural dangers like rattlesnakes, ticks, or poison oak. Donations are welcome at the Kaweah Oak Preserve. Suggested donation is $3 for Adults and $1 for children. Dogs are welcomed, but with a leash, and of course, owners need to pick up any waste left behind. There is parking, picnic tables, and restrooms. There are guided tours from time to time, and various events held at the Kaweah Oaks Preserve which include, but are not limited to, nature talks and lectures, basket weaving, volunteering days and more! You won’t regret witnessing the beauty yourself, and in the process making a print in your own time capsule.