A Deer Creek Journal: SRT staff member charts a visual course through storm-soaked land
By Gregory Liebau
(SOUTHERN TULARE COUNTY, CA) - Deer Creek passes out of the Sierra Nevada foothills south of Porterville and is the largest undammed watershed remaining in Tulare County. As a result of the historic storms that lashed across California early in the year, unfettered water flowed fiercely across the entire course of Deer Creek.
Because this is such a rare occurrence, I took some time to travel from the first paved bridge that crosses Deer Creek in the Hungry Hollow area southeast of Porterville downstream to where the creek runs alongside the Pixley National Wildlife Refuge. All of the photos shared here were taken from various bridges that have been built across the creek over a nearly forty-mile extent.
A section of Deer Creek due west of the contemporary Deer Creek Rock & Asphalt Company mine was settled in the 1860s by an enterprising man named Samuel Carothers. Carothers was a Pennsylvania native and veteran of the Mexican-American War who moved to New Orleans after his discharge.
He became business partners with a certain Patrick O'Connor and join him hauling freight to and from Mexico. In 1853, Samuel married Patrick's fifteen-year old daughter Juana Marie, and eventually the two and their young family moved to California and settled in Tulare County. Samuel would raise sheep and employed seven shepherds, and shrewdly established water rights for a quarter mile on either side of the creek and along several miles of its length.
Samuel funded the first local school to be built for the benefit of his, his neighbors; and their employees; children and paid the salary of its sole teacher, and barns and roads and the homes of neighbors sprang up all around the wealthy Carothers ranch.
The quarter-mile buffer area established for Carothers’ grazing operation around the creek remains intact for large extents on either side, and is used to this day by cattle grazers and horse breeders.
For those hoping to experience one of the San Joaquin’s last natural watersheds, the series of storms that are currently passing through the state are sure to keep Deer Creek flowing for weeks to come!