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Hospital Rock: Native American History Within Sequoia National Park

California is a state full of natural wonders, including many state and national parks. See interesting sites in San Francisco and beyond.

Hospital Rock area in Sequoia National Park

Hospital Rock area in Sequoia National Park

When visiting Sequoia National Park, the grandeur of the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range comes to mind. Here, one can find the magnificent giant sequoias and surrounding forested areas the region is famous for. Hospital Rock and the fact that Southwest Native Americans camped there for possibly as long as one thousand years or more might be overlooked by many.

Where Is Hospital Rock?

The site is near Foothills Visitor Center Park Headquarters of Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California. Three Rivers lies at an elevation of 857 feet (261 meters) above sea level. The entrance at this point is from the west at approximately the midpoint of Sequoia National Park.

Traveling the zig-zagging meandering roads through Sequoia National Park and the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park to the north, be sure that whatever vehicle a person is driving is in tip-top shape. Elevation changes will put the vehicle gears and brakes to good use!

The elevation at Hospital Rock is around 3,000 feet above sea level. My traveling companion and I were coming down from much higher elevations when we decided to stop and enjoy a picnic lunch here. A functional parking area and quite a few picnic tables are there on-site, and the setting is beautiful and historical as well.

Great picnic spot

Great picnic spot

How Did It Get Its Name?

Where did Hospital Rock get its name? Supposedly, James Everton, a bear trapper, got accidentally shot when working around one of his traps. He used that area to recover.

It was an area that Native Americans had utilized over the centuries before the white man made his way west and discovered the pretty setting that provided shelter, food, and a nearby water source from the Kaweah River.

Primarily utilized in the winter months, the natives that called this area home would have moved higher up into the mountains during the scorching summertime heat.

Stone Pestle and Mortar Holes

There is a sign at Hospital Rock that portrays a Native American woman identified as "Jane Whaley, a Wobonuch (one of the Monache tribes) using a boulder pestle in a bedrock mortar."

Additional information on the sign states the following:

With a stone pestle weighing five to ten pounds, Indian women pounded and ground whole acorns into meal in these mortar holes. Most western tribes depended on one primary source of food. In this area, it was acorns. Before acorn meal can be safely eaten, it must be leached to get rid of poisonous tannin. Hot water was poured over the acorn meal in a leaf-lined sandpit until the meal no longer tasted bitter.

One can easily see from the photo there were many such holes in the rocks of this area. Just think of the countless hours the women would have spent sitting cross-legged, grinding those acorns into a ready meal for baking bread. Those of us who purchase our flour, cornmeal, and the like have it easy compared to native peoples who had no such conveniences but instead lived off of what the land provided.

Native American Tribes From This Area

Those who have left behind evidence of their residence at Hospital Rock include the following tribes:

  • Western Mono (Monache)
  • Tubatulabal
  • and Paiutes (all of which are Shoshonean)
  • plus the occasional visit from the Yokuts.

When the white man was moving west and settling nearby in the mid-1800s, they brought unwelcome diseases. The Native Americans had no natural defenses against diseases such as smallpox, scarlet fever, or measles, and because of this, many of them died. It was not always warfare and massacres that killed the Native Americans, although that certainly played a part.

Beautiful, vivid red pictographs (also known as rock paintings) created by resident Native Americans are on view here. Whatever materials they used in painting these rocks have stood the test of time! What story do they tell us of the past?

Civilian Conservation Corps

During the Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of people got temporary employment by working for a government agency called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It was all a part of President Roosevelt's New Deal, and many improvements occurred on publicly owned land.

At Hospital Rock, a trail was built to a nearby waterfall on the Kaweah River, making it possible for more people to see this beautiful area. This trail is a small example of the type of work executed by the CCC.

People enjoy rock climbing in this area. My friend and I were satisfied viewing the sites and did not participate in any rock climbing that day.

The video below shows the fun kayakers can have along this Hospital Rock portion of the Kaweah River. It certainly looks like it would make for a wet, wild, and exciting time!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Peggy Woods