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Lake Isabella California

Lake Isabella California is the center of Kern Valley. Lake Isabella is the county's largest body of water with a surface area of 11,200 acres. In the 1850's the river served as a gold rush camp. The U.S. Corps of Engineers built earthen dams across two forks of the Kern River in 1953 creating the Isabella reservoir. There are many activities you can participate in at Lake Isabella or on the Kern River, such as fishing for trout, bass, bluegill, catfish, and crappie, whitewater rafting, kayaking, boating, sailing, jet skiing, windsurfing and water skiing. Because this is not a natural lake and the water level is always changing there are several unmarked underwater hazards, like sand spits, and islands appearing and disappearing, rock outcroppings, as well as submerged fencing and tree snags.

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The Sequoia National Forest just about surrounds Lake Isabella with a 1,000 miles of trails for hiking. You can tent or RV camp at the eight developed campgrounds along the river or in the many campgrounds within the nearby Sequoia National Forest. There is snow skiing at the nearby Shirley Meadows or Sugar Loaf Peak. There is a public golf course near the north end of the reservoir near Kernville. Cyrus Canyon has motocross driving facilities. And for the more quiet moments wildflower and wildlife photography is abundant at the South Fork Wildlife Area.

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We camped on the east side of the lake at Camp 9. There are no designated camping spots there, you just drive towards the lake and stop wherever you want and set up your tent. It is FREE. Since there are no designated tent sites the ground is not that flat or without rocks and dead tree debris. You might also find some leftover fish hooks and line along with a death fish or two. Lake Isabella offered great unobstructed lakeside views, free rough camping for up to 14 days at a time. The lake has plenty of fish and people were catching them all day.

On our way to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks we stopped along the Kern River to stretch our legs. At this stop Jason adopted a new pair of boots, I got a stair workout in, and Ben threatened to get into the water but he just wet his hair. Because of the winding roads and with the slower speeds it took quite a few hours to get to the national parks, so this stop was well appreciated and rewarding in it's own kooky way.

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Jason's thoughts - Big winds tested our new $190 REI tent throughout the trip and it performed well even with the rain fly installed. Ben, age 14, said he loved the tent with the rain fly installed plus the 20 degree mummy sleeping bag combined with a ½" foam mat. He said he slept very well.

Kelly's thoughts - This planned stop on our way to Sequoia National Park was well appreciated by all of us. Jason needed a break from the van, I wanted to see a new place, and Ben needed to lose some energy. The lake and surrounding mountains are gorgeous and inviting. However, I was planning on swimming but the water was very cold so that didn't happen. And, the winds were howling the whole time we were there. We were a little worried about Ben in the tent with the wind, water levels, and wildlife but he really enjoyed the whole scene.

Travel Info - Lake Isabella is three hours north of Los Angeles and one hour northeast of Bakersfield. Lake Isabella lies between two sections of the Sequoia National Forest at an elevation of 2,578 feet. There are several full hook-up RV campgrounds in Kernville, Wofford Heights, and Lake Isabella California. Location of Isabella Lake.

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