The Kings River is a major river of California. It arises in the Sierra Nevada, consisting of three forks. The Middle and South Forks start in Kings Canyon National Park, while the North Fork starts in the John Muir Wilderness. The South Fork flows in Kings Canyon: a spectacular 8,000-foot (2,400 m) deep glacial valley. The forks join in the foothills of the Sierra in Fresno County, where the river becomes an attraction for whitewater rafting (class 3 rapids). From that point, the Kings River flows about 125 miles (200 km) to the Tulare Lake bed south of Stratford.
In the foothills, the water from the river is impounded at Pine Flat Dam. In the Central Valley, the river flows south of Fresno, California, where its water is diverted for agriculture. The Kings River splits six miles (10 km) north of Lemoore into a second set of North and South Forks. These forks join again nearly five miles (8 km) west of Lemoore. Clark's Fork splits off from the second South Fork and flows 5.5 miles (9 km) to rejoin the second North Fork 6 miles (10 km) west-northwest of Lemoore. The river flows through an artificial channel into the normally dry Tulare Lake bed about ten miles (16 km) south of Stratford.
The Kings River was named by Lieutenant Gabriel Moraga on one of the first expeditions by the Spanish to the Central Valley of California in 1806. The Kings River was originally named Rio de los Santos Reyes (River of the Holy Kings) to honor the Biblical Magi. On the valley floor the Kings River is responsible for certain groundwater recharge. There is evidence in the Hanford area that depths to groundwater are increasing, indicating concern for safe yields of this basin.