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Sportsman's Directory

Central Coast Places to Hunt and Fish

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Kern River Valley:

It's the most "somewhere else"

you can go without

going far at all

By Ann Beman

Steeped in Old West lore, Native American tradition, and old- and new-fangled outdoor pursuits, the Kern River Valley seems to fish with a whole different tackle than the rest of the world. Know what I mean? If not, I recommend you take the opportunity to visit this different place, this somewhere — else place that's weird in a good way.

Residents and seasoned visitors will tell you they enjoy both the region's solitude, due to its remote, mostly rural character; and its intensity, in the form of outdoor sports and recreation. Perched in the Southern Sierra, the Kern River Valley is located in the southern central portion of California - about 50 miles east of Bakersfield, 120 miles north of Los Angeles. The two most common ways to reach the valley are both via scenic Highway 178, one winding east through Kern Canyon from Bakersfield, dramatic cliffs on one side, cascading whitewater on the other; or west over Walker Pass from the Mojave Desert, with cartoonish, prehistoric-looking Joshua trees waving you into grassy ranch and farmlands, then riparian willow/cottonwood stands, and finally, the watery expanse of Isabella Reservoir. The KRV is made up of 13 unincorporated townships: Alta Sierra, Bodfish, Canebrake, Kernville, Lake Isabella, Mountain Mesa, Onyx, Riverkern, Southlake, Squirrel Valley, Weldon, and Wofford Heights.

Native Americans have called the valley home since 100 AD, or before, according to archaeological evidence such as grinding holes, petroglyphs, and pictographs throughout the watershed. The first non-Native American on record, Captain Joseph R. Walker, arrived in May 1834, looking for the northernmost snow-free pass through the Sierra. At 5,200 feet above sea level, Walker Pass is named for Captain Walker, who in 1845-46 led explorer and topographer John Charles Fremont's expedition into the Kern basin. Fremont's artist was Edward M. Kern, for whom the river, the county, and Kernville are named. Struck with gold fever, prospectors passed through Walker Pass into the Kern Valley on their way to the gold fields in Northern California. Some stayed and found the precious ore in several locations, including Keyesville, named after miner Richard Keyes. In 1858, in what would become a Kern Valley legend, a Cherokee man named Lovely Rogers was chasing his mule near what is now Wofford Heights. As he paused to pick up a stone to pitch at the animal, he noticed gold flecks in the rock.

So, like Keyesville, soon there was Rogersville, adjacent to the newfound Big Blue gold mine. Then an enterprising fellow threw a plank across two barrels and opened a whiskey bar, prompting the name Whiskey Flat, which is what Kernville was called before the church ladies sobered it up.

When the Gold Rush slowed to a trickle, ranching and farming took over. Hydroelectric projects began in the early 1900s, and the area served as backdrop for many Western movies. From 1948-53, the Army Corps of Engineers constructed Isabella Dam, flooding Old Kernville and Isabella. Kernville moved north, trucking many of its historic buildings with it. Doing the same, Isabella moved south into the Hot Springs Valley and called itself Lake Isabella.

In the 1970s whitewater rafters spawned outdoor adventure and guiding companies that are a major industry in the Kern Valley today. Every year, the area's reputation grows with mountain bikers, and new mountain sports crop up all the time, with the Kern Valley always catching a piece of the action.

Hunting and fishing, of course, have been popular here every step of the way.


Camp in the Sequoia National Forest
Choose from many locations and campsites in the Southern Sierra Nevada Range. Enjoy Lake and streamside fishing sites.

Giant Sequoia Mercantile
Your gateway to the Sequoias. Start your Sequoia adventure here. Great place for maps, guides, gifts and tons of local knowledge.
13427 Sierra Way in Kernville

North Fork Marina

Marina with slip moorings, boat, pontoon, kayak rentals.
Hwy 155 at Tillie Creek on Lake Isabella
(760) 376 1812

Cheryl’s Diner
Great local diner serving
Breakfast, lunch, dinner
11030 Kernville Rd, Kernville
760- 376-6131

Sierra Gateway Markets Two full service markets with huge selection of tackle and outdoors equipment on the river.
On the river
13432 Sierra way
760- 376- 2494

On the lake
14606 Hwy 178
760- 378- 2207

French Gulch Marina
Marina with slip moorings, boat, pontoon, kayak rentals.
Hwy 155 at Pioneer Point on Lake Isabella (760) 379-8774

Home of the 40oz Porterhouse
Located 15 miles North of Kernville
760- 376- 2430

Riverview Lodge
Only waterfront lodging in the historic town of Kernville
2 Sirretta st.
760- 376-6019

Lake Isabella/KOA
Great campground for tenting, RVing and lodging. Located in Weldon.

Sequoia Lodge / Camp James Campground
Located on the outskirts of town, camp or lodge steps from the Kern River. And the fishing can be incredible steps away from your room or campsite!

Paradise Cove Lodge
Ideally located for anglers fishing Lake Isabella. Beautiful facility overlooking lake.
Fine dining and an excellent lodging option
760- 379- 2719

Pizza Barn
11404 Kernville Rd
Kernville, CA 93238

Dam Korner Restaurant
Serving home cooking to the valley for 40 years!
760- 379-8770

Crossroads Mini-mart
Gear up at crossroads with great market and tackle store
155 & Lake Isabella Blvd
760- 379 8170

Kern Valley Airport and Café
10649 Sierra Way
Kernville, CA 93238

Falling Waters River Resort
Twelve acres of cottages with crackling fireplaces, alongside the Wild & Scenic Kern River
15729 Sierra Way
Kernville, CA 93238
760- 376-2242

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