Kernville & Lake Isabella: Things to do besides rafting This is page 2 of 3 of our article about rafting on the Kern River. Kernville is a tiny town that borders the river. Aside from private homes that reach into the mountains, it’s pretty much a small town center and one other street. You won’t find large hotels or chains here. Think cabins, B&B, small eateries, and local-only businesses. Kernville is about getting away and experiencing nature. One business owner said, “one of the attractions of Kern County is that you can hurt yourself. It’s kind of wild and unregulated.”
Things to Do
On Lake IsabellaLake Isabella lies between the Lower and Upper Kern. It is actually a reservoir with an ever-changing water level. Trying to get to the lake for recreation, you’re likely to drive right past it, puzzling over where the entrance to the activity is. This is not a built-up resort full of rental stands and food concessions. [caption id="attachment_674" align="alignright" width="357"] North Fork Marina before the summer season started.[/caption] There are plenty of rugged campgrounds right around the lake, two marinas — and that’s it. Because of the ever-changing water level and the desire to keep the area natural, the U.S. Forest Service won’t permit permanent structures. (In case it matters to you, this is porta-potty land.) The two marinas on the lake — North Fork Marina (below) and French Gulch — are the only buildings on the lake and they’re literally on the lake, fully afloat. Activities on Lake Isabella are largely uncontrolled, except for diligent lake patrol helping keep you safe. There are no regulations for 2-stroke engines, so people enjoy wave runners. You’ll find people fishing, sailing, wind surfing, kite surfing, kayaking and water-skiing all together. If you own a boat, you’re welcome to bring it. Boat permits are required. You can purchase a permit at French Gulch Marina. For the rest of us, there are reasonably-priced rentals available at the two marinas. Owners Deb and Bill Chase, who started as vacationers from Los Angeles, have about 70 water vehicles for rent. They offer pontoon boats (great for parties or groups), fishing boats, wave runners and hard-shell kayaks for rent, and some inflatables for sale. With rentals, help or supplies from the marinas, Lake Isabella can be a great place for a party or company get-away. Deb Chace is known for creating large customized events for children, adults, and special-needs groups.
North Fork Marina and French Gulch Owned by Bill and Deb Chase Northforkmarina.com Open year-round. (760)-376-1812 FrenchGulchMarina.com Open year-round. (760) 379-8774 Note: The marinas move, so phone for directions.
Annual Isabella Lake Fishing DerbyThe 22nd Annual Isabella Lake Fishing Derby will take place April 16-18, 2011 and offer over $250,000 in prizes. Derby.KernRiverValley.com
A note about signageOnce you’re outside of Kernville proper — in the in the parks/camping/historic areas — signage is scarce because the US Forest Service wants to keep things natural. Be sure to get clear directions to all things that are off of main roads. For example, told about a mine to visit, we listened to directions, found the small sign on the side of the road and think we turned off at the correct point, but after that there were no signs. We never did find the mine.
Things to Do In KernvilleOur time in Kernville was too short so we didn’t get to experience as much as we could have. Thus, these are just a few things your family might enjoy right in Kernville.
Kern Valley MuseumKernville, originally called Whiskey Flat, was the true Wild West. The Kern Valley Museum, run by the Kern River Valley Historical Society, and located right in town, is full of items and stories from the days of prospectors and miners, saloon patrons, shootings, and outlaws. I liked the story of a bar fight that led to an Ore discovery and the creation of another mine, with both men becoming partners! The museum has mining equipment, stuff from old movie days, the story of the Isabella Dam, and even prehistoric artifacts.
Admission is Free Open 10-4 Thursday-Saturday. If you can’t get there during museum hours, come over anyway and enjoy the items and info that are out front. Kern Valley Museum 49 Big Blue Road Kernville, CA 93238 KernValleyMuseum.org (760) 376-6683
Visit a MineThis sounds like a fun thing to do with children. Be sure to get directions though. We can’t tell you about a visit because we never found one.
Fish HatcheryThe Fish Hatchery on Sierra Way is also said to be an interesting visit. The river is known for its Rainbow and Golden Trout.
Camp at Frandy Park[caption id="attachment_670" align="alignright" width="347"] This view of Frandy and the River is from the Kernville Inn[/caption] The Frandy Park campground is literally along the Kern River, and right downtown. In our article about rafting the Kern River, we talk about the rafting rental facilities that we’ve enjoyed. But there’s also the camp ground aspect. There is tent camping as well as RV. Frandy.net [clearboth]
Enjoy the WaterI can’t provide details of the water activities and water safety here, but Lorrie and I saw families enjoying the shores of the Kern, right in town and at Frandy Park. We were told there was a safe swimming area not far from the center of town. The KRV Novelty Company, located right in town, sold inflatables and can likely give advice. Please refer back to the bottom of our rafting article for info about them. [hr]
Things to Do Near Kernville
The Kern Valley Golf CourseOn the way into Kernville from Bakersfield — two miles west of Kernville on Highway 155 — you’ll pass a very unpretentious-looking entrance to a PGA rated, Par 72 course and driving range. It’s open all year, 7 days a week. Men’s Tees are rated as 68.0 / Slope 106 Women’s Tee are rated as 71.3 / Slope 116 Our golf columnists have not played this course yet. KernValley.com/news/kvgolf.htm (760) 376-2828
Silver City Ghost Town Silver City Ghost TownSilver City Ghost Town, a collection of historic local Kern Valley structures, is located south of Lake Isabella in Bodfish, California. We have not been there to tell you about it, but it may be fun for kids. 3829 Lake Isabella Blvd. Bodfish, CA 93205 LakeIsabella.net/SilverCity Map
Giant Sequoia National Monument Trail of a Hundred Giants45 miles northwest of Kernville is near the Southern Gateway to the giant sequoias. Some trails can be driven by car. Access depends upon weather. We have not been there to tell you about it. KernValley.com/news/trail100.htm
Horseback RidingSorry we can’t shed any light on this but we can offer it as a suggestion that you can look into. [hr]