Bringing the Kern River Back to Bakersfield

Bring Back the Kern is working to restore recreational flows to the Kern River in Bakersfield (cue Merle Haggard).

2 minute read

December 13, 2021, 12:00 PM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


The Kern River passes through a steep river canyon filled with jagged rocks and surrounded by hills of golden grass.

The Kern River where it spills out of the southern end of the Sierra Nevada Mountains | Traveller70 / Shutterstock

Just to the east of Bakersfield, California the Kern River rushes through mountain canyons, pouring into Isabella Lake at flows that range widely with the seasons and year to year depending on the snowpack. Below the lake, consistent dam releases send water pounding down jagged piles of house sized boulders. Highway 178, clinging to the canyon above with a clear vision of the drama of motion and resistance below, is lined with signs warning about how many people have drowned in the river over the years.

By the time the river reaches Bakersfield, all the water is gone.

Ian James reports for the Los Angeles Times about a proposal to restore water to the Kern River in Bakersfield.

"Decades ago, the Kern flowed all the way through Bakersfield. But so much water has been appropriated and diverted in canals to farmland that the river has vanished in the city, leaving miles of dry riverbed," writes James. That could soon, if a group of residents campaigning to restore the river with enough water to supply a green corridor in the heart of the city and providing places to wade, kayak, and picnic on the banks.

"They’ve spoken at meetings of the state water board, collected photos of the water-filled Kern years ago, and organized a march along the riverbed, trudging nine miles on dry sand to drive home their message that water belongs in the river," according to James.

The group, Bring Back the Kern, recently launched an online exhibition called A River Remembered, which shows "photos of people wading and tubing in the river decades ago," explains James.

More on the opportunity—which includes a 2007 court ruling involving water rights and water used by the Kern Delta Water District—is included in the source article below.

Thursday, December 9, 2021 in Los Angeles Times

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