While we were camping at Orange Grove RV in Bakersfield, we met a fellow camper who told us about Kern Canyon and Lake Isabella. He said they were a "must see", and he was right. The drive was very scenic and reminded us of the Smoky Mountains except for the 106-degree heat.
The deep canyon of the river northeast of Bakersfield is a popular location for fly fishing and particularly famous for whitewater sports including whitewater rafting, whitewater kayaking, and riverboarding.
The Kern is also well known for its danger, and is sometimes known as the "Killer Kern". A sign at the mouth of Kern Canyon warns visitors, "Danger. Stay Out. Stay Alive" and tallies the deaths since 1968; as of July 11, 2009, the count was up to 247. Merle Haggard's song Kern River recounts just such a tragedy. We saw a lot of people rafting and tubing. Parts of the river were quite calm, other parts were very dangerous.
Our scenic drive took us to the small town of Kern and then on to view Lake Isabella. Lake Isabella is one of the largest reservoirs in Southern California with over 11,000 surface acres. Elevation ranges from 2,500 to 2,600 feet and fishing on the lake is open year round. They had camping right on the lake and it was packed. They also honored the Golden Age pass, so we got in for free.
We enjoyed the area much. We highly recommend the drive to anyone in the Bakersfield area. Check back later for more from California.