Paul Bunyan Statue in Three Rivers, CA

This impressive statue, weighing approximately 13 tons and standing just under 20 feet tall without its pedestal, was carved from a single, fallen 2,000 to 3,000 year old sequoia tree, by local artist Carroll Barnes, between the years 1941 and 1942.  From that original 30 to 40 ton log and using only a hammer and chisel, Barnes spent 18 months creating a statue way larger than life, just like its namesake.  It still stands today in front of the Three Rivers Historical Museum/ Sequoia Foothills Chamber's Visitor Center where, with the pedestal, Paul's current height is estimated to be about 30 feet.

As reported by the Kaweah Commonwealth in an article dated 9/21/01, according to Eric Barnes, son of Carroll Barnes, Paul Bunyan was a patriotic icon in Three Rivers during World War II.   Thus, in line with that tradition and in honor of those who lost their lives on 9/11, the statue once again showed its colors as the American flag was flown next to it and in front of the Three Rivers Historical Museum, for many days following 9/11.

Originally created in Three Rivers at Carroll Barnes' studio and subsequently placed in its original location next to present-day Sierra Lodge, Paul Bunyan has since traveled all over town (and even some places out of town) before finding its current and final resting place today, in front of the Historical Museum.  Some details remain sketchy, but Paul Bunyan has apparently greeted visitors and warmed the hearts of locals from two additional sites in town: next to the former Whitewater Contemporary Arts & Crafts Gallery/later Rosemary's Antiques/still later The Orange Ray, before it was moved to a location farther down the highway near the Sequoia Cider Mill Restaurant.  In the early 1970s, Paul even left Three Rivers temporarily, for the nearby town of Porterville. 

Originally from North Carolina, Caroll and his wife found Three Rivers when they decided to honeymoon in Sequoia National Park, fell in love with the town, and then made Three Rivers their home a few years later by settling down on a ranch on the North Fork.

Before he passed away, Carroll Barnes had created many, many other pieces - and one other Paul Bunyan, which still stands today on the grounds of the College of Sequoias in Visalia.  However, the Paul Bunyan he created in Three Rivers is believed to be the largest sculpture ever made by anyone, from a single fallen sequoia.

The Museum contains information and displays on the process of creating the huge statue.

It also includes information and displays pertaining to the Native Americans who made Three Rivers and the surrounding area their home before the Europeans arrived, displays and information on Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park, and artifacts used by the early ranchers who arrived in the 1850s. 

In the Visitor Center section of the Museum, the local chamber of commerce provides information about current things to do and places to eat, shop, find services, and procure lodging.  

Visiting Three Rivers

Three Rivers has two museums and a visitors center, art galleries, many artist studios, a small theater venue, a Veterans memorial building, a traditional jazz club, a world-famous jazz band, and a classical music performing arts institute, a world-famous candy shop, several specialty shops and a scenic 9-hole golf course, two banks, five churches, a retreat center, a family-practice physician and clinic, local mountain healers, two dentists, a library, an historic cemetery in addition to the old Kaweah post office, a hardware store, riding stables, veterinary services, an organic farm, and an elementary school.  There are two grocery stores, several convenience stores, a full-service gas station, and 24-hour gasoline.  Our restaurants run the gamut from fine dining to casual.  Several are located along the riverfront.  Some offer live music from time to time and still others offer live music on a regular basis, from big names to local talent.  Visitor lodging includes riverside inns, poolside motels and hotels, a range of bed-and-breakfast experiences, cabins, campgrounds and RV parks.

Population per the recent census is 2,182.  Full-time population may be as much as 3,000 if you include all the ranches and farms in the surrounding area.  When summer arrives, I rejoice because our snow-melt river is finally low enough, and warm enough, that I can walk in it, and play in it!  Tourism is our main industry, with the National Park Service as our largest employer. Our weekly newspaper, our community services district, and the monthly town hall meetings hosted by the Village Foundation, all serve to keep things running smoothly and to keep us informed.

For even more detailed information about our town, visit the website for our local newspaper, The Kaweah Commonwealth: http://www.kaweahcommonwealth.com/ 

EVENTS

Three Rivers starts the year off with a plunge into the Kaweah River at the Gateway Restaurant on January 1st.  This hilarious Polar Plunge or Polar Dip is followed by a hot breakfast - free for participants.   We hold a free family-friendly festival of art, food, and fun on the 1st Saturday of each month run by local artist Nadi Spencer.  We also have an annual Snowman Building Contest in January, a Learn to Square Dance Party in February, and a Picnic with Bathtub race at Lake Kaweah in March which are also free, family-friendly, open to the public, and form a part of the Hero Appreciation Program which runs every January-March.  Springtime brings us the Environmental Weekend, and the month of April ushers in Jazzaffair, our almost 40 year old traditional jazz festival run entirely by volunteers, and the 60 plus year old Lions Club Team Roping held on the last full weekend in April.  May brings the annual Redbud Arts & Crafts Festival sponsored by the Arts Alliance on Mother's Day weekend.  The Three Rivers Performing Arts Institute or TRPAI for short, presents a classical music camp for virtuoso string players in June which provides the community with spectacular free concerts.  TRPAI also hosts the annual Concert in the Grass in September and a winter chamber music series.  A Hot Dog Festival in July, Living History Day in October and Community Caroling around a bonfire in December, are all sponsored by the Historical Society, and the Senior League hosts a Holiday Bazaar every November - just to name a few of our events and activities.  Last but not least, every two years, the artists of Three Rivers throw open their studio doors in the springtime and invite the public in for a special presentation and tour that runs for 3-4 days.

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Location

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Nearby
Latitude: 36.4515101 Longitude: -118.89606 Elevation: 858 ft

Seasons Open

All seasons

ADA Accessibility Notes

ADA Accessibility is available at the entrances to the Visitor Center and restroom.

Pet Friendly Notes

Well-behaved pets are welcome.

Comments

Paul Bunyan was carved in front of the adobe building that Carroll Barnes built with his wife, Evangaline, and his sister, Marion, and her husband Gene Gray. Gene used to tell me stories about how it attracted many visitors as Carroll carved the statue from a single piece of Giant Sequoia. Both Carroll and Gene showed their art work in the little adobe building which was called "Sierraden". They had to close it in 1941, when the US entered World War II. Gene said with the gas rationing and difficulty getting tires for cars, that very few people came up the hill. In 1983, Marion Gray and I had a Gene Gray photography retrospective in the old Sierraden (at that time it was a small art gallery run by Gary Cort.) A note about the events mentioned above the Three Rivers Environmental Weekend is held annually in the autumn, on the first weekend of October. Every other spring, the artists of Three Rivers open their art studios for the Three Rivers Biennial Artists' Studio Tour, which was started in 1992.

Elsah Cort, 5/6/2011

PS...Carroll Barnes also carved the redwood rooster that stands in front of the Three Rivers Drug Store, and the Sequoia Giant at College of the Sequoias in Visalia.

Elsah Cort, 5/6/2011

I love this article about my great uncle Carroll! Ps.. He was born in Iowa!!

Amanda Barnes , 7/20/2012

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