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The Grapevine Trail
Kaweah Oaks Preserve
Our hope is to preserve the Valley Oak Tree (Quercus lobata), the surrounding forest, meadow and woodland. This same landscape once covered hundreds of square miles in the Kaweah, Tule and Kern River Deltas and now only exists in small pockets. Several valley oaks living on the Preserve are 300+ years old and are hosts to many native insects, birds and small mammals. The Yokuts Indians once harvested the acorns and other native plants that still thrive here. We strive to promote conservation of all native plant and animal life and provide an educational outdoor laboratory for local schools and other like-minded individuals to enjoy or explore. It is owned and maintained by local volunteers dedicated to preserving our natural heritage.
Call 559 738-0211 if you would like to help. 
WELCOME to the Kaweah Oaks Preserve, a small 324 acre nature preserve, owned and managed by the Four Creeks Chapter of the Sierra Los Tulares Land Trust, for the protection of our natural heritage. Please use this interpretive trail booklet to enhance your journey along the Grapevine Trail. Take 15 minutes or several hours to enjoy this quarter mile loop trail. Use the benches along the path to rest or just listen and watch for a while. 

This booklet will introduce you to many of the plants and animals that inhabit this Valley Oak Riparian Forest Community. The thirteen numbered markers highlight special features found along the trail. 

Over 100 species of birds, 16 mammal species and 11 species of reptiles and amphibians have been seen at the Kaweah Oaks Preserve. Keep your senses alert for signs of wildlife as you explore the natural diversity of this unique sanctuary. 

Please observe these simple rules: 
Remember, this is a nature preserve, we humans are the guests here. Please help preserve it by not collecting plants, animals, insects or fish. Stay on the trail and take everything you brought with you when you leave. Smoking, camping, pets, radios, fires, alcohol, paint-ball guns and firearms are prohibited. Visiting hours are from dawn to dusk. 

Thank you for your cooperation and  please enjoy your visit. 

Map of Trail and Waterways at Weir

The Grapevine Trail 
The Grapevine Trail begins where you see the old wild grapevines reaching into the Valley Oak tree. They cascade from the tree, appearing as a waterfall descending from the great oak’s canopy. This oak is possibly 250+ years old, older than the United States of America! This species of oak is the largest in North America and only grows in lower elevations within California. 

There are 13 stops on this ¼ mile looped nature trail. Take the left fork at the Black Willow tree (Stop #2). 

California wild grape
California Wild Grape

1. WILD GRAPE - These are native Wild Grape vines (Vitus californicus). Many birds, insects and animals eat the grapes as they ripen in the fall. The fruit was also a favorite of grizzly bears and the Yokuts Indians who lived in this area. These vines can climb 50 feet into the branches of the oaks and serve as a stairway into the oak’s canopy for small animals, many of which make their homes here. 
stinging nettle
Stinging Nettle

2. UNDERSTORY - Here, near the Black Willow tree, are a few examples of understory plants which help to illustrate the difference between this Valley Oak Riparian Forest and a Valley Oak Woodland. Many herbs, shrubs and vines such as Horehound
Elderberry, Stinging Nettle, Mugwort, Mint, Wild Grape, White Hedge Nettle, Miner’s Lettuce, Chickweed, Bur-chervil, etc., thrive under the canopy of these densely spaced trees. A good example of Valley Oak Woodland habitat is found in the northeast portion of the preserve along the Sycamore Trail, where the trees are more widely scattered and annual (ocurring once a year) and perennial (recurring every year) grasses dominate the understory. California Sycamores and Willow trees thrive in the more open woodland. If time allows, do take the Sycamore Trail (north of the Alkali Meadow) and experience the difference between a forest and a woodland.

Himalayan berry
Himalayan Blackberry

3. HIMALAYAN BLACKBERRY - On the left you will see a small patch of Himalayan Berries (Rubus procerus), with the larger prickles (thorns). This berry is not native but was brought to this 
area by settlers around 1909. These, along with many other exotic plants, have no natural control and eventually develop into invasive weeds. This variety has not choked out our native blackberry (smaller thorns), but it does compete for the same space. The tasty berries are good for pies, jam and jelly. The berries also provide good food and protective cover for squirrels, mice, rabbits, and birds. They ripen in summer and may be picked - but beware of the large thorns.
California blackberry leaf
California Blackberry leaf

4. CALIFORNIA BLACKBERRY - California Blackberry (Rubus ursinus), a native species, was once a rare occurrence on the preserve. It has taken over this spot and done increasingly well since the removal of cattle from the riparian forest. Cattle found the California Blackberry vines edible because of their small spines.This native blackberry ripens in late May and June and can be very sweet when picked ripe - don't eat the red ones - look for the BLACK berries.
milk thistle leaf
Milk Thistle silver-viened leaf
poison hemlock fern-like leaf
Poison Hemlock fern-like leaf
5. EXOTICS - A few non-native (or exotic) species have invaded the preserve. Here you can see Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum), and Yellow Starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis)  in the summertime. 

Poison Hemlock has lacey fern-like leaves and in spring and summer grows tall stalks with white Queen Anne’s Lace-like flower heads. It also resembles Wild Carrot and Bur-chervil in its early stage of growth. It is poisonous if ingested (eaten) and Socrates, a Greek Philosopher, learned that the hard way. 

Milk Thistle is an aggressive intruder with large spine-tipped, silver-veined leaves and purple spiny flowers on tall stalks. It can grow very quickly and become impenetrable by early summer. This plant was introduced for its tasty artichoke-like fruits. 

Yellow Starthistle is much smaller with yellow flowers. Multiple long and sharp thorns are produced from every pollinated flower by late summer. All three of these species are native to Europe and are invasive in Central California. Several means of eradication (removal) have proven both costly and unsuccessful, but we’ll keep trying. 

Listen for Bewick's Wrens, Oak Titmouse, Spotted Towhees, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks. What other sounds do you hear? Are they natural or man-made sounds?

virgin's bower
Clematis or Virgin's Bower

6) VIRGIN’S BOWER - These creeping vines provide excellent habitat for small mammals and birds. By hiding under the leafy cover, they can avoid the sharp eyes of hawks circling above. Virgin’s Bower (Clematis ligusticifolia) tends to grow horizontally, overgrowing other low ground cover, rather than climbing into trees as the wild grape does. After blooming in mid-summer, the female parts of the flower form a fuzzy seed head - like balls that look like weird Christmas ornaments.
ripe elderberries
Ripe Elderberries

7) ELDERBERRY - The tall shrubs on both sides of the trail are good examples of the native Blue Elderberry (Sambucus caerulea). All parts of this plant are toxic except for the berries. If you search the branches carefully, you may find a half-inch oval exit hole of an elusive Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle, a federally protected species.The beetle is red and black with very long antennae.

Cottonwood tree

8) DEAD COTTONWOOD - This dead Cottonwood tree (Populus fremontii), to the west of marker #8, fell over in 1993. The end of its life was marked by a lack of small branches and the abundance of leathery Mistletoe (a parasitic shrub) in its branches. It’s an excellent host to many bugs, insects and lizards which can be observed along 
and under its trunk. This site is a good laboratory to see producers, consumers and decomposers in action. Young cottonwoods  grow nearby. 
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9) RYE GRASS - On the right side of the trail annual rye grass (Lolium multiflorum) covers an open area in early spring. 

California Mugwort

10) CHANGE - A wall of vines now dominate where a fallen oak slumbers. The oak, now completely hidden, slowly decomposes and returns to the soil to nourish the vines and surrounding plants and insects. Look for the vine cave near the creek bank. Beware of Stinging Nettle near the trail. 

A healing herb grows nearby - Mugwort, the natural antedote for the rash caused by Stining Nettle. Take a leaf, crush it and lightly rub it on the rash every few minutes to relieve the irritation. When you get home, apply ice to the rash for 3-4 minutes for permanent relief.

Watch out for stinging nettle on the trail.

valley oak
Valley Oak

11.) ADOLESCENT VALLEY OAKS - Several Valley Oaks between 30 - 75 years of age grow close to each other here. 
Compare their sizes to those to your left and behind you. 

It is up to all of us to preserve this land so they can grow old, too.

12.) REST STOP - Rest here a while and exercise your five senses: hear, smell, see, feel and taste. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds all around you. Can you hear five things? Which ones are natural and which ones are man-made? How many different bird calls can you hear? Smell the forest – how many scents can you distinguish? Look at the whole picture of this forest, turn your head and see the majestic Valley Oaks with the Wild Grapevines making a stairway into the forest canopy for the little creatures that live here – can you spot any of them? Look closely at the plants all around – how many shades of green do you see? How many different shaped leaves do you see? Can you feel a breeze, the wind, the sun, anything? If the Himalayan Berries are ripe - taste one. Any Miner’s Lettuce nearby? Taste it. Involve yourself with nature, it will delight all your senses.
13.) BLACK WILLOW - At this last stop along the Grapevine Trail you’ll see (and duck under) a shrubby tree. This is a Black Willow (Salix gooddingii), one of 4 Willow species found here. Notice the blade-shaped leaves are green on both sides of the leaf. Can you find any Willow fluff left over from the bloom stalks? Look for bark beetles as you pass by.

We hope you have enjoyed your hike and that this information has provided a better understanding of the Kaweah Oaks Preserve’s riparian forest landscape and its inhabitants. 

You are welcome to keep this copy of the Grapevine Trail Interpretive Brochure or you can leave it in the receptacle at the #1 marker  for others to use. Thank you for helping to keep Kaweah Oaks Preserve natural by leaving it as you found it and not disturbing the native wildlife or vegetation. 

Please come again each season of the year and observe the many changes in the plants, birds and animals. You will be amazed and delighted to see how well it all works together. 

Trail guides  are available to lead groups on a nature walk through the Grapevine, Sycamore,  Swamp or Rose Trail.  Call Sierra Los Tulares Land Trust  at 559 738-0211 or go online at to schedule a guided tour. 

Visit our website at for more information and study aides. Become a member of Sierra Los Tulares Land Trust and help protect this and other precious places in the southern Sierra foothills and the Tulare Valley. 

Donations are appreciated and tax-deductible. You can mail a contribution to: 

Sierra Los Tulares Land Trust
711 N. Court Street, Ste. D
Visalia, CA 93291 
Join us for our annual fundraising banquet in May each year and the Open House in October. Special tours, entertainment and other fun activities are scheduled throughout the year.
Call 559 738-0211 or visit the website for event updates. 
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