Place

Hospital Rock Picnic Area Exhibits

Three free-standing, wood exhibit panels and a bulletin board are found on the picnic area sidewalk.
Hospital Rock Picnic Area exhibits

NPS Photo

Quick Facts

Audio Description, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Parking - Auto, Restroom, Restroom - Accessible, Tactile Exhibit, Wheelchair Accessible

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks worked cooperatively with associated tribes to update exhibits at this picnic area. This place was once a vibrant village inhabited by Native Americans. Learn more about their relationship with this area. Experience these exhibits, along with accompanying tactile and audio components, in person, or learn more below.

A Shared Space Exhibit

The past, present, and future are alive here. Nature, people, and spirit share this space. Native Americans call this place Pah-din, which means place to go through. It is also known as Hospital Rock.

This spot along the Kaweah River supports a diverse mix of animals, plants, and trees. The richness of this landscape made it an ideal location for Pah-din, a village that was home to hundreds of California Native Americans. Today, it is still an important place for the descendants of the village, and a site where people of many backgrounds come to rest, play, and explore the natural world.The Hospital Rock area features hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Snow, ice, and water carved the surrounding hillsides and valley floor. In this place, several large granite boulders provided temporary shelter or space for tribal gatherings. The area namesake rock, Pah-din or Hospital Rock, is a massive 60 feet long and 20 feet wide. Like the landscape, the river is a life force. It is home to fish and insects, and sustains nearby plant life.

Keeping Traditions Alive-The Civilian Conservation Corps

In the 1930s, the Hospital Rock landscape changed dramatically. Assigned to Hospital Rock, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) completed several landscaping and improvement projects. They also cut a new stone staircase leading to the pictograph, built the Big Pool Trail and tunnel, and built a historic vehicle water station. Many local Native Americans joined the Corps and contributed to its projects nationwide.

Connections between Land and People Exhibit

Native American groups lived, interacted, and traded goods in this village for generations. They continue to gather here as land stewards to practice their culture, educate, restore native plants, and for spiritual and special events.

Native Americans have a deep connection with the land. When Hospital Rock was an active village, the people cared for the plants and woodland ecosystem in ways that promoted health and abundance. From this practice, they were able to harvest materials necessary to live and thrive. Even today, these tribal cultural practices remain a way of life.Life here included fishing and gathering foods, cultivating the land, trading, playing games, visiting, andconnecting to one’s spiritual beliefs. The land provided everything needed to survive. People of the village harvested plants to build shelters, weave baskets, and create snares.Fire has always been part of this landscape. People living here depended on it for warmth and cooking. They also used it to clear vegetation to improve visibility and productivity in forests and grasslands.In this area, Native Americans hunted game, such as deer, squirrels, birds, and fished for food. Theyalso gathered plants, acorns, seeds, berries, and roots.

Keeping Traditions Alive-Homeland

“This is an ancient site, a sensitive site.... People took care of each other here. There’s a welcome feeling here...the medicine is strong.”A connection with the land is critical to North Fork Mono Tribal Chairman Ron Goode. “Everything out here is our relations.”Traditional Ecological Knowledge has been passed down for generations by his people, and children today have strong relationships with the land. This traditional knowledge guides their restoration of damaged meadows and waterways in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. This work benefits not only tribal lands, but also national forests and parks.

A Village Exhibit

In this area, the Mono (Monache), the Yokuts, and the Tubatulabal connected with their neighboring tribes to form a vibrant community. These connections continue today.

Many groups lived, visited, gathered, and practiced traditions here. Historical accounts document more than 500 people occupying this village. Travelers stopped at the village to visit, rest, or trade. Runners and messengers used the extensive trails to deliver news about events such as fires. Tribal leaders are responsible for the safety and welfare of their people, including welcoming outsiders, negotiating with neighboring groups, and maintaining peace.By the 1860s, Native Americans left the Hospital Rock area. New settlers forced many out of the area, while others died from newly introduced diseases.Today, Mono (Monache), Yokuts, and the Tubatulabal live all over the world. Some live on rancherias,  reservations, or other Indian lands. Their descendants maintain a strong connection to Pah-din (Hospital Rock) and often participate in park management decisions.

Keeping Traditions Alive-A True Leader

The descendants of Chief Chappo remember him as a strong leader who was compassionate, honest, and decisive—a peacemaker and a healer. Responsible for the welfare of his people, Chappo lived peacefully at Hospital Rock for generations. In the 1860’s, when new settlers arrived, they brought disease and conflict to the area. Chappo made the difficult decision to leave his homeland to save his people. Today, his descendants share stories about his gifts, and work to follow in his footsteps.

Activity, Past and Present Exhibit

Signs that Pah-din (Hospital Rock) was once a vibrant village are all around us. Pictographs, bedrock mortars, historic fire pits, and obsidian artifacts all tell a story of a way of life.

Imagine a time when a community of hundreds of people lived here. Picture a village with dwellings (called nobi by the Mono people), children playing, women preparing food, and men getting ready for a hunt. This location inspired a way of life and created traditions and practices that continue today.Village women processed acorns into a flour that was a staple food. They made depressions in flat bedrock to create grinding holes, or mortars, and used cylindrical stones as pestles.Redbud shrubs provide strong, flexible shoots that were split or kept whole to weave into baskets. Elderberry shrubs were used for food, cultural uses, medicine, or ceremonial use.Items such as beads and obsidian (volcanic glass) may be found here. If you find an artifact, help us by leaving it where it is. Take a photo, note the location, and report your finding to park staff.

Keeping Traditions Alive-The Weavers

“The materials that make up a Native basket serve to ground it to an area. The weaver’s culture governed the techniques used to make it and the designs that adorn it. And the voices of tribal elders whisper through it.”                - BRYN BARABAS POTTER

Weaving serves a practical purpose but is also an art. Nature not only provides materials but also inspires patterns. An active basket-making community continues to teach skills to the next generation of weavers.

Community Traditions Exhibit

What memorable traditions occur here, past and present? The Hospital Rock area has a rich history of people, events, and activities that shape it and create a sense of  community.

The granite rocks near the pictographs of Hospital Rock served many purposes such as a shelter, a place of healing, and a location for ceremonies. Native Americans call this place Pah-din, which means place to go through.Every Native American society has healers, who practice traditional medicine to aid ailing community members. On occasions, healers cared for injured travelers here. The English name “Hospital Rock” was first used in 1873 after a pioneer recovered here from a trapping injury.Spirituality was prominent in the form of reverence for the natural world. The land and its animals were respected. Creation stories were passed down within families.­Like the beat of drums, sounds from clapper sticks are an important part of cultural, spiritual, and ceremonial traditions. Clapper sticks are made from elderberry stalks.Today, families picnic together, share memories, swim in the Kaweah River, and hike in this spot.

Shared Voices Exhibit

What is your native language? From past to present, many languages have been spoken here, connecting people to this space and to one another.

In the past, California Native American groups lived, met, and gathered here. They spoke a number of languages and dialects to trade goods, share news, and cooperate with others. Today, these languages are still heard throughout the Sierra range and foothills. People can tell a lot about their neighbors based on the way they say “hello.” A person’s language communicates to others who they are, where they come from, and how they live.Historically, California Native Americans each had their own language. However, each group spoke many languages to connect with their neighbors and fellow travelers.Today, travelers from all over the world rest, picnic, and enjoy nature here, whether they call this place Hospital Rock or Pah-din. While you’re here, listen for people speaking a variety of languages.Nature also has a language. The rustling of oaks, chirping of birds, calls of squirrels, and the roaring river flowing over granite boulders form the essential sounds of this landscape.

Keeping Traditions Alive-Our Language Lives

Language is Marie Wilcox’s life. According to Marie, “words matter and learning the language is important to our culture.” Marie is one of the last living speakers of the Wukchumni language. With the help of her family, Marie created a Wukchumni dictionary. Containing thousands of words and examples of their uses, the dictionary documents the living language of her people. As part of a movement to preserve our nation’s Native American languages, Marie’s work documents the art and heritage of the Wukchumni voice.

Last updated: November 11, 2021