Hidden Adventures: Kaweah Oaks Preserve

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Adjacent to a busy Highway 198 between Visalia and Exeter, there's a pocket of protected land called the Kaweah Oaks Preserve.

Enter through the main gate and you'll soon encounter the largest Valley oak forest remaining in the Central Valley, several natural and manmade creeks and various plants and animals, including cattle used to graze on invasive species.

The preserve pays homage to the people who first called this land home with events such as "Go Native," but most visitors simply come to spend some time outside.

"There's a lot you can do," says Aaron Collins. "You can hike, you can take trails along the waterways, you can find shade in a hot month. In the winter months, it's a totally different character, but the foot traffic out here stays busy all year round. We have about 100,000 visitors a year."

The preserve is the pride and joy of the Sequoia Riverlands Trust, a non-profit land trust with more than 40,000 acres of land spread across Central California.

Kaweah Oaks has been protected since 1983. Mitchel Williams can remember coming here as a kid.

Recently, he brought his son and wife for a short hike.

"Nice parking lot, there's restrooms, they have the amenities you need if you want to get outside with your kids and your family," he said. "There's actually multiple tables and a picnic area here, too. It's great."

Sequoia Riverlands Trust owns and manages a handful of other preserves, including Dry Creek near Woodlake, where scenic views and moments of silence await.

The former gravel quarry has been restored to its natural beauty.

"It was, in a way, our proudest moment, I think, because we took it from really a struggling, sort of beleaguered landscape to the more lush and inviting place that it is now," Collins said. "People come there from all over, runners and hikers, and we have a disc golf course there now."

From class fieldtrips to the federally-funded EARTH Academy, education is another essential component of what Sequoia Riverlands Trust offers to the community.

"Trying to get them out from behind their screens, their devices and get them out into nature, where the science shows that learning sticks," Collins said. "When you learn in nature and out in the outdoors, students recall those experiences. They recall what they learn in ways that they don't do necessarily in classroom learning."

Visiting the preserves may be free, but by making a donation, you can help keep the non-profit's mission.
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