Latitude / Longitude:
35°42′51″N 118°26′12″W / 35.71417°N 118.43667°W / 35.71417
2,667 ft (813 m)
Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)
Kernville is a census-designated place (CDP) in the southern Sierra Nevada, in Kern County, California, United States. Kernville is located 42 miles (68 km) northeast of Bakersfield, at an elevation of 2,667 ft (813 m). The Kern River was named after artist and topographer Edward Kern, who accompanied John C. Fremont on his 1845 expedition. They camped at what was a fork of two rivers, now the middle of Lake Isabella. An 1858 gold rush led to the formation of a town briefly called Rogersville, then Williamsburg, which was in 1863 renamed Whiskey Flat after a bar opened. In 1864, the town was renamed Kernville.
After decades of planning, the Isabella Dam project began in 1948. As a result, Kernville was relocated upstream to its present location at the tip of the northeast fork of the man-made lake, along with certain historic buildings. Downtown visibly retains Kernville’s gold rush and Old West roots, attracting tourists along with the area’s natural scenery and outdoor activities. The town’s original location is slightly east of Wofford Heights. Foundations and other remnants can still be seen when the lake is low. The famous Mountain Inn, built mainly to house movie stars and crew before the 1948 move, is now (partially) at the new Kernville, renamed the River View Lodge.
The population was 1,395 at the 2010 census, down from 1,736 at the 2000 census.
Even with its annual summer influx of tourists, Kernville remains one of the most quaint, conservative relics of early California. Many local families trace their lineage to original 19th century homesteaders, and the area’s newspaper, The Kern River Courier, is delivered weekly by a horse-drawn carriage. The post office, established at the original site in 1868, was moved to the new site in 1951.