Trinity River (California)

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Trinity River (Hupa River)
Hoopa River
Country United States
State California
 - left East Fork Trinity River, South Fork Trinity River
 - right Stuart Fork Trinity River, New River
Source Scott Mountains
 - elevation 5,550 ft (1,692 m) [1]
 - coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found. [2]
Mouth Klamath River
 - location Weitchpec
 - elevation 190 ft (58 m) [1]
 - coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found. [2]
Length 165 mi (266 km)
Basin 2,853 sq mi (7,389 km2) [3]
Discharge for Hoopa, CA
 - average 4,858 cu ft/s (138 m3/s) [3]
 - max 168,000 cu ft/s (4,757 m3/s)
 - min 244 cu ft/s (7 m3/s)
Map of the Trinity River and Klamath River watersheds. The Trinity River is shown in dark blue, with its watershed highlighted in dark yellow. The South Fork Trinity River extends southward, while the main Trinity River curves east then north.

The Trinity River is the longest tributary of the Klamath River, approximately 165 miles (266 km) long,[4] in northwestern California in the United States. It drains an area of the Coast Ranges, including the southern Klamath Mountains, northwest of the Sacramento Valley. Designated a National Wild and Scenic River, along most of its course the Trinity flows swiftly through tight canyons and mountain meadows.


The original Hupa name for the Trinity River was the Hoopah River. It was also known as the Indian Scalp River when first crossed by the Jedediah Smith fur-trapper's party heading northwards up the coast on May 25, 1828.[5][6]

The river was noted on maps in that year as Smith's River. The name Trinity River was due to an error. When Pierson B. Reading came upon the river in 1845, he named it Trinity after Trinidad Bay, believing that the stream ended there.[7]

The Trinity River flooded massively in the Great Flood of 1862, wiping out the economy of the area.

Jerry García's father drowned in the river.


It rises in northeastern Trinity County, in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest along the east side of the Scott Mountains, a subrange of the Klamath Mountains. It flows south-southwest along the west side of the Trinity Mountains into Trinity Lake (20 miles (32 km) long) formed on the river by the Trinity Dam, then immediately into the smaller Lewiston Lake, formed by the Lewiston Dam at Lewiston. From the reservoir it flows generally west-northwest past Weaverville and along the southern side of the Trinity Alps. It receives the New River from the north at Burnt Ranch and the South Fork Trinity River from the south along the Humboldt-Trinity county line. From the confluence with the South Fork it flows generally north-northwest through the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation and joins the Klamath from the south in northern Humboldt County at Weitchpec, approximately 20 miles (32 km) from the Pacific coast. Both Trinity Lake and Lake Lewiston are within Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area.


The river has been the scene of placer gold mining, including large-scale hydraulic mining, since the days of the California Gold Rush. The river's swift current make it a popular destination for whitewater rafting and kayaking. The creation of the Central Valley Project in the 1960s and the construction of Trinity Dam and Lewiston Dam diverted most of the water from the upper Trinity to the Sacramento Valley, but a minimum annual release has since been established.

Ecology and Conservation

The river is also known for its runs of salmon and steelhead maintained in part by hatcheries. The king salmon enter the river in mid-July and are there generally through October before fading out in early November. The steelhead arrive in October and typically are in the river through March.[8] In 1981 the United States Congress designated the entire river downstream from the Lewiston Dam to its mouth on the Klamath, as well as portions of the river's tributaries, as the Trinity Wild and Scenic River.[9]

In 1828, the Jedediah Smith expedition was helped across the Trinity River by the Yurok and camped on the east side of the Trinity River. His clerk, Harrison G. Rogers wrote, "Mr. Smith purchases all the beaver furs he can from them", suggesting that beaver were then plentiful on the Trinity.[6] Joseph Grinnell in his "Fur-bearing Mammals of California" noted that beaver had been present on other Klamath River tributaries such as the Scott River and Shasta River, and further cited a Fish and Game report of beaver from 1915-1917 on High Prairie Creek[10] at the mouth of the Klamath River near Requa, California.[11]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Google Earth elevation for GNIS coordinates. Retrieved on February 3, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Trinity River, USGS GNIS
  3. 3.0 3.1 Water Resources Data - California, Water year 2004, Volume 2, USGS; see pp. 414-415, gage 11530000 Trinity River at Hoopa, CA
  4. U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed March 9, 2011
  5. Erwin G. Gudde, William Bright (2004). California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 460. ISBN 978-0-520-24217-3.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 William H. Ashley, Jedediah S. Smith, Harrison G. Rogers. The Ashley-Smith explorations and the discovery of a central route to the Pacific. p. 246. Retrieved 2011-07-31.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Turner, Dennis W. & Gloria H. (2010). Place Names of Humboldt County, California, 1542-2009. Orangevale, CA: Dennis W. & Gloria H. Turner. p. 237. ISBN 978-0-9629617-2-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Trinity River fishing report".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Trinity River, California". National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Retrieved 26 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "High Prairie Creek". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Joseph Grinnell, Joseph S. Dixon, and Jean M. Linsdale (1937). Fur-bearing mammals of California; their natural history, systematic status, and relations to man. Berkeley, California: University of.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links