The San Joaquin River is the longest of the Central Valley rivers, flowing 330 miles from its source located in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The river got its present name, dating back to the early 1800s, from Spanish explorer, Gabriel Moraga. He named a tributary of the great river for Saint Joachim, husband of Saint Anne and father of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Eventually, his name was applied to the entire river.
Some interesting San Joaquin River facts:
- The San Joaquin is the second longest river in California
- The river drains most of the area south of Yosemite
- The San Joaquin has many tributaries, including the Tuolumne, Stanislaus, Merced, Calaveras, Kings, Kern, and Mokelumne Rivers.
- The river support about 40 species of freshwater fish and, along with its marshes and wetlands, provides a critical resting and breeding stop for migratory birds along the “Pacific Flyway”
- In the language of the Mono people, the river is called “typici h huu” which means “important or great river”
As this great river makes its journey from high in the Sierra Nevadas until it meets the Sacramento River at the California Delta, it provides Central Valley residents with a plethora of recreation opportunities.
Fun things to do
Great opportunities for biking and hiking can be found in the San Joaquin River Gorge Basin. The best hiking and biking trails can be found west of Mammoth Pools. If you go 5 miles west of Road 222, there’s a parking lot where you’re able to begin a six-mile loop that meanders past meadows and wildflowers. The 15 mile San Joaquin River Trail also leaves from this area, and will take you all the way to Millerton Lake.
If you like fishing, the Middle Fork of the river is where you’ll want to be, and it’s easily accessible. This portion of the river, flowing past Devils Postpile National Monument and through Reds Meadows in the Eastern Sierras, offers nine miles of excellent fishing. Fly fishing is popular on the stretch of the river while bait fisherman like to fish the pools along the more rugged stretches of the river. Rainbow, golden, brook, and brown trout can all be found in the San Joaquin.
There’s some great whitewater rafting on sections of the San Joaquin River. South of Yosemite, near Shaver Lake, there is a 6-mile section of the river with Class III and Class IV sections of whitewater, extending from Redinger Dam to the Kerckhoff Reservoir. Other spots along the river are great for floating and paddling.
Another Central Valley gem
The San Joaquin River Gorge has some of the top hiking trails in the Central Valley. Although the Gorge is accessible year-round, the fall, winter, and spring seasons are best for enjoying recreation activities in the great outdoors. It’s a great place for family outings. You can ride horses and bikes, hike, kayak, explore caves, fish, camp, or just enjoy the wildflowers. The San Joaquin River — yet another Central Valley treasure.