Kernville & Lake Isabella: Things to do besides rafting
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 Isabella
Lake 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.
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
Note: The marinas move, so phone for directions.
Annual Isabella Lake Fishing Derby
The 22nd Annual Isabella Lake Fishing Derby will take place April 16-18, 2011 and offer over $250,000 in prizes.
A note about signage
Once 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 Kernville
Our 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 Museum
Kernville, 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
Visit a Mine
This 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.
The 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
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.
Enjoy the Water
I 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.
Things to Do Near Kernville
The Kern Valley Golf Course
On 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.
Silver City Ghost Town Silver City Ghost Town
Silver 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.
Giant Sequoia National Monument Trail of a Hundred Giants
45 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.
Sorry we can’t shed any light on this but we can offer it as a suggestion that you can look into.