The FRESNO RIVER is a river in Central
California and a major
tributary of the
San Joaquin River
San Joaquin River . It runs approximately 68 miles
(109 km) from the Sierra Nevada Range to the San Joaquin River.
Although called the 'Fresno' River, it is one of the largest and
longest river systems in Madera county.
* 1 Course
* 2 Lakes and dams
* 3 Lower river
* 4 Tributaries
* 5 Towns
* 6 Crossings
* 7 References
Headwaters: The Fresno
River forms in the Oakhurst valley, near the
western border of city limits. The primary source of the Fresno River
is Lewis Fork Creek, which gathers water far northeastward into the
hills adjactent to Fish Camp. Lewis Fork Creek itself has a major
tributary from Nelder Creek, coming from the upper-montane Nelder
Grove area and Speckerman Mountain(7600ft). The other major tributary
is China Creek, which acts as a drainage for the ridges around the
Teaford Saddle. After Oakhurst, the Fresno
River runs northwest until
it reaches the end of the sloped valley at the calm topography of the
Fresno Flats. There the valley and hills start to meet, and the Fresno
crosses Potter Ridge at around 2000 feet.
Foothills: As the river carves it's way through the ridge, it creates
several windy canyons and gulches. This area was mildly popular during
the Central Sierra era of the Gold Rush, throughout the early to mid
1850s. Past the ridge, the Fresno
River descends the foothills mildly.
The harsh canyons ease up and start to widen. It crosses Road 415 at
around 1000 feet elevation, a intersection known as the 'Fresno
Hensley Lake: Once the Fresno
River gets out of the foothills, it
creates a gently-sloped river valley down to the border of the Central
Valley. At one of the widest sections of the river,
Hidden Dam was
constructed and Hensley Lake created. Now a popular recreation spot,
the lake covers a considerable area when full from late-spring snow
Central Valley: Below the lake, the river flows southwest to Madera ,
then west to the Eastside Bypass . The river exits the bypass then
flows generally northwest to its confluence with the San Joaquin
River, just north of Highway 152 .
LAKES AND DAMS
Hidden Dam is the only major storage dam on the Fresno River. The dam
forms HENSLEY LAKE, a 90,000 acre foot (110,000,000 m3) reservoir .
United States Army Corps of Engineers built the earth-fill dam,
which was completed in 1974. Its primary purpose is flood control, but
it is also used to regulate flows for irrigation and groundwater
recharge. In 1978, the lake was opened to the public for recreation
and is a popular boating and fishing destination for locals.
Below Hidden Dam, the Fresno
River provides water to MADERA LAKE via
an unnamed distributary. Excess flow from the lake is returned to the
River by the lake's dam. Further downstream, on the northeast
edge of Madera, is the JOHN FRANCHI DIVERSION DAM, a 15-foot (4.6 m)
high, 263-foot (80 m)-wide earth and steel dam that is used to divert
water into the Big Main Canal. The dam was built by the United States
Bureau of Reclamation in 1964 and is operated by the Madera Irrigation
District. From this point, the river is normally dry. The only time
water is released past here is when water levels are high enough to
spill over the dam.
A diagram of the Fresno River's flow through man-made channels
where the original riverbed no longer exists.
West of Road 17 in Madera County , the Fresno River's natural
riverbed has been subject to much intervention by man and as a result,
the natural riverbed has many gaps in it, which are now connected by
At Road 17, the natural riverbed has been modified to divert most
flows into a manmade canal, which leads to the Eastside Bypass . Water
can also be allowed to continue flowing down the main river channel
(north of the man-made canal), but that water now ends up in the
Bypass as well.
Once in the Bypass, water can exit via a small channel at a diversion
dam and continue west along the natural riverbed the rest of the way
to the San Joaquin River. Between the Eastside Bypass and the San
Joaquin River, the riverbed (which is almost always dry) has been
subject to straightening, but more or less follows its natural course.
In addition to many small unnamed streams, the Fresno
the water from the following streams:
* Oak Creek, considered by some to be the headwater of the Fresno
River beginning at Pierce Lake
* China Creek
* Miami Creek
* Crooks Creek
* Spangle Gold Creek
* Willow Creek
* Mud Spring Creek
* China Slough
* South Fork Fresno
* This is a distributary that branches off to form a small island,
then returns to the mainline Fresno River.
* Berenda Slough
Towns along the Fresno
* Oakhurst (Unincorporated)
Construction of the
Fresno River Viaduct in January 2016. The
BNSF Railway bridge is visible in the background.
There are numerous crossings over the Fresno
River in Madera and
Merced Counties. Crossings are listed here beginning at the source and
* Madera County above Hensley Lake
* Crane Valley Road (Road 426)
* State Route 41
River View Drive
* Dupfy Fire Road (Road 8084)
* Ellerbrock Station Road
* Raymond Road (Road 415)
* Madera County below Hensley Lake
* Daulton Road (Road 603)
California High-Speed Rail
Fresno River Viaduct (under
* City of Madera
* East Cleveland Avenue
* North Lake Street
* North D Street
* North Gateway Drive
* State Route 99
* Schnoor Avenue
* North Granada Drive
* Madera County below the City of Madera
* Road 23
* Road 20
* Road 19
* Road 16
* Road 9
* Road 1
* Merced County
* State Route 152
* ^ A B "Fresno River".
Geographic Names Information System
Geographic Names Information System .
United States Geological Survey . 1981-01-19. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
* ^ "USGS Gage #11258000 on the Fresno
River below Hidden Dam, CA".
National Water Information System. U.S. Geological Survey.
1941–1990. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
* ^ "Fresno
River Operations Protocols - Final". Madera Irrigation
District. Retrieved 2014-01-14.
* Columbia Gazetteer of North America
United States Bureau of Reclamation
San Joaquin River
San Joaquin River White Paper
Rivers of California\'s Central Valley watershed (north-to-south)
SACRAMENTO RIVER WATERSHED
* Cow Creek
* Cottonwood Creek
* Battle Creek
* Mill Creek
* Deer Creek
Big Chico Creek
* Stony Creek
* Butte Creek
* North Fork
* East Branch
* West Branch
* Middle Fork
* South Fork
* North Fork
* Middle Fork
* South Fork
* Cache Creek
SAN JOAQUIN RIVER WATERSHED
* Cherry Creek
* Fresno River
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