The Road ends in the Mineral King Valley, the “Jewel in the Crown”.  Created by glaciers, the valley is surrounded by mountain peaks, many over 13,000 feet.  The east fork of the Kaweah River begins at the southern end of the valley at Farewell Gap and flows through the center of the valley fed by  five streams that cascade into the valley.  Four of the streams--Monarch, Crystal, Franklin, and Eagle--flow from alpine lakes in the surrounding mountains.  The fifth, Spring, is an actual spring that gushes out of a large hole about 1,000 feet above the valley floor.


The growing season in the Mineral King Valley is very short, from June through August.  Many plants  that bloom in the valley in June, then bloom at progressively higher altitudes with the passing summer weeks.  Certain plants, however, grow only at the higher altitudes (9,000-11,000 feet) of the Mineral King Valley; Coville’s Columbine is found only at the tree line growing out of the rock; it is difficult to understand how such a delicate flower survives in such a harsh evironment.  Heather and Mountain Laurel also grow primarily in Alpine environments above 9,000 feet. The beautiful and old Fox Tail Pines are the only trees to be found at the tree line.


The first plants to bloom in May & June are predominantly shades of blue: Languid Ladies,  Stickseed, Larkspur, and Lupine.  In July and August the colors change to yellow, red, and white: Paintbrush, Sierra Lily, Goldenrod, Bigelow’s Sneeze Weed, Cone Flower, Blazing Star, Geranium, and Corn Lily.  During  August, September and October many plants produce a variety of berries, pods and cones: Mountain Ash, Twin Berry, Elderberry, Currant, Gooseberry, Snowberry, Baneberry, Manzanita, and Service Berry.




 

The Mineral King Valley

Mineral King Valley

Watercolor by John Keesey, 2011

Mineral King Valley with Corn Lilies

Watercolor by John Keesey, 2011