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Kern County, California
Map of California highlighting Kern County
Location in the state of California
Map of USA CA
California's location in the U.S.
Founded 1866
Seat Bakersfield
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

8,161 sq mi (21,137 km²)
8,141 sq mi (21,085 km²)
20 sq mi (52 km²), 0.25%
 - (2000)
 - Density

80/sq mi (31/km²)

Kern County is a county located in the southern Central Valley of the U.S. state of California. Established in 1866, it extends east beyond the southern slope of the Eastern Sierra Nevada range into the Mojave Desert, and includes parts of the Indian Wells Valley, and the Antelope Valley, and has an area larger than the state of Connecticut. From the Sierras the county extends across the floor of the San Joaquin Valley to the eastern edge of the Temblor Range, part of the Coastal Ranges. To the south the county extends over the ridge of the Tehachapi Mountains. As of the 2000 census, its population is 661,645, but recent California Department of Finance estimates place the county population at 779,869. The county seat is Bakersfield (since 1874) with the original county seat being the former mining town of Havilah in the mountains between Bakersfield and Tehachapi.

The county has a large agricultural base and is a significant producer of oil, natural gas, hydro-electric power, wind-turbine power, and geothermal power. As of 2004, Kern remains California's top oil-producing county, with over 85% of the state's 43,000 oil wells. The county accounts for one-tenth of overall U.S. oil production, and three of the five largest U.S. oil fields are in Kern County. Kern is also noted for its mineral wealth, including gold, borite, and kernite.

Edwards Air Force Base, China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, and Mojave Spaceport are located in Kern County (the latter owned and operated by the county government)

Kern County is home to California's largest open pit mine at Boron, which mines borax.[1]

The American Lung Association ranked Kern County as the most ozone-polluted county in the nation in 2006.[2]


The Kern County area was first claimed by the Spanish in 1769. In 1772, Commander Don Pedro Fages became the first European to enter the area. The expedition entered via the Grapevine Canyon (later the site of the Ridge Route along U.S. 99 and now Interstate 5). Walker Pass was discovered in 1834 and is an important pass across the Sierra Nevada as it is one of the few not closed by winter snows. It is now a National Historic Landmark. In 1848, the Kern area was ceded to the United States as part of the transfer of California, Nevada, and Utah and other lands under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Kern County was created in 1866 with the county seat located in the now abandoned mining town of Havilah. In its beginning, Kern County was dominated by mining in the mountains and desert. The area of the San Joaquin Valley was considered inhospitable and impassable at the time due to swamps, lakes, tule reeds, and diseases such as malaria. This changed when settlers started draining lands for farming and constructing canals, most dug by hand by hired Chinese laborers, to irrigate and drain these lands. Within 10 years the area of the San Joaquin Valley surpassed the mining areas as the economic influence of the county, and the county seat was moved from Havilah to Bakersfield in 1874.

Tensions between Native Americans (mostly Mohave and Paiutes) following attacks on miners and encroaching settlers in the mountains turned deadly on several occasions. Most notably the ghost town of Keyesville is the location where 5 Indians were killed in 1856, and another 35 in were killed by soldiers in the 1863 Keyesville Massacre. Relations with other tribes were more cordial. The Haidu lived on the Tejon Ranch under General Edward Beale's protection on Ranchos, and relations between Beale and the Chiefs were cordial. The Yokut Indians of the San Joaquin Valley were peaceful and friendly. Spanish explorer Father Francisco Garces befriended the Yokuts at villages at the present day Garces Circle. They lived in Hogans along the branches of the Kern River Delta and hunted antelope, tule elk, deer, grizzly bear, fish, and game birds. The Yokuts for the most part died from diseases, with a few assimilating into the white man's culture. The Haidu assimilated into the local population with most intermarrying with Spanish/Mexican Californios. Many of the Paiute still live in the mountain areas of eastern Kern County, with no reservations in Kern County as in other counties.

Kern County was formed in 1866 from parts of Los Angeles and Tulare Counties. The county derives its name from the Kern River which was named for Edward Kern, cartographer for General John C. Fremont's 1845 expedition, which crossed Walker Pass. The Kern River was originally named Rio Bravo de San Felipe by Father Francisco Garces when he explored the area in 1776. Kern County was nearly named Buena Vista County for the large, and now drained, Buena Vista Lake between Bakersfield and Taft.

Kern County was the site of the Battle of San Emigdio. It was between Indians of the Santa Barbara Mission who rebelled against the Mexican government's taking over mission property and ejecting the Indians. This battle between Mexican forces from Monterrey occurred at the canyon where San Emigdio Creek flows down San Emigdio Mountain and the Blue Ridge south of Bakersfield near Highway 166.

Former U.S. Ambassador and U.S. Army General Edward Beale established and owned the large Tejon Ranch in the mountains south of Bakersfield. It was the consolidation of four separate Mexican Ranchos he purchased in 1846 after his part in winning California independence in the Bear Flag Revolt against corrupt and inept Mexican government officials. Today, the Tejon Ranch is the largest tract of privately owned land in California. The Beale Memorial Library, Beale Avenue, General Beale Road, The Beale Memorial Clock Tower, Beale Park, and Truxtun Avenue are named after the influential Beale family, both for Edward and his wife, and their son Truxtun.

In 1854 the First Regiment, U.S. Dragoons established Fort Tejon near the head of the Grapevine Canyon. The post's mission was protecting peaceful Indians living on the nearby Tejon Indian Rancherias, as well as safeguarding miners from raids by hostile Mohave and Paiute Indians. The Indians of the Tejon Ranch, most of whom were Haidu, assimilated into the local population and the Rancherias no longer exist. Located next to the Ridge Route (now Interstate 5) just north of the town of Lebec, the fort is a California State Historical Park featuring living history programs and Civil War re-enactments (although no Civil War battles were fought there).

Elk Hills, one of the largest oil fields in Kern County, was involved in the Teapot Dome Scandal, an infamous example of corruption of President Warren G. Harding's administration. In 1923 it was revealed that Harding's Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, transferred portions of the naval petroleum reserves into private hands without competitive bidding, and in the case of Elk Hills, in exchange for personal 'loans.' The illicit deals involved the reserves at Elk Hills and at Teapot Dome in Wyoming.

On July 21, 1952, an earthquake with epicenter in Kern County measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale killed 12 people. The Kern County earthquake was the largest earthquake to strike Southern California since the Fort Tejon earthquake of 1857 and the Lone Pine earthquake of 1872, causing immense and widespread damage. In addition to 12 fatalities, it was responsible for at least 18 injuries and over $50 million in property damage. It was followed by several aftershocks, at least 20 of which were magnitude 5.0 or greater. The quake occurred on the White Wolf Fault and was the second strongest quake in California history, second only to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

As home to Edwards Air Force Base the Air Force's main flight test facility, Kern County has been the site of many milestones, including the first supersonic flight and the first landing of the Space Shuttle. Kern County is also the home of the first inland spaceport in the United States, the Mojave Spaceport. Kern County is also home to the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station at Ridgecrest where many naval weapons were (and continue to be) developed and tested.

Between 1983 and 1986, several ritual sex ring child abuse cases allegedly occurred in Kern County. These resulted in numerous long prison sentences, all of which were overturned, some only decades later. The Kern County cases marked the beginning of a series of similar cases all over North America and beyond.

Currently, Kern County is represented by 5 District Supervisors. John McQuiston representing the 1st District, Don Maben representing the 2nd District, Mike Maggard representing the 3rd District, Ray Watson representing the 4th District, and Michael J. Rubio representing the 5th District.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 21,138 km² (8,161 sq mi). 21,085 km² (8,141 sq mi) of it is land and 53 km² (20 sq mi) of it (0.25%) is water.


As of the census² of 2000, there were 661,645 people, 208,652 households, and 156,489 families residing in the county. The population density was 31/km² (81/sq mi). There were 231,564 housing units at an average density of 11/km² (28/sq mi). The racial makeup of the county was 61.60% White, 6.02% Black or African American, 3.37% Asian, 1.51% Native American, 0.15% Pacific Islander, 23.22% from other races, and 4.14% from two or more races. 38.39% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 66.8% spoke English, 29.1% Spanish and 1.0% Tagalog as their first language.

There were 208,652 households out of which 42.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.6% were married couples living together, 14.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.0% were non-families. 20.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.03 and the average family size was 3.50.

In the county the population was spread out with 31.9% under the age of 18, 10.2% from 18 to 24, 29.80% from 25 to 44, 18.7% from 45 to 64, and 9.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 105.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 105.3 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $35,446, and the median income for a family was $39,403. Males had a median income of $38,097 versus $25,876 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,760. About 16.8% of families and 20.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.8% of those under age 18 and 10.5% of those age 65 or over.

The center of population of California is located in Kern County, in the town of Buttonwillow [2].


Presidential election results
Year GOP DEM Others
2004 66.5% 140,417 32.5% 68,603 1.0% 2,154
2000 60.7% 110,663 36.2% 66,003 3.1% 5,642
1996 53.7% 92,151 36.6% 62,658 9.7% 16,582
1992 45.1% 80,762 33.8% 60,510 21.2% 37,991
1988 61.5% 90,550 37.4% 55,083 1.1% 1,660
1984 65.0% 94,776 34.0% 49,567 1.0% 1,401
1980 59.6% 72,842 33.7% 41,097 6.7% 8,182
1976 52.3% 58,023 45.6% 50,567 2.1% 2,371
1972 60.1% 71,686 35.2% 41,937 4.7% 5,570
1968 46.6% 53,990 42.6% 49,284 10.8% 12,558
1964 41.2% 45,014 58.7% 64,174 0.1% 120
1960 50.4% 52,800 49.1% 51,440 0.4% 465

Kern is a strongly Republican county in Presidential and congressional elections. The last Democrat to win a majority in the county was Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Kern is part of California's 20th and 22nd congressional districts, which are held by Democrat Jim Costa and Republican Kevin McCarthy, respectively. In the State Assembly, Kern is part of the 30th, 32nd, 34th and 37th districts. The 30th district is held by Democrat Nicole Parra while the 32nd, 34th, and 37th districts are held by Republicans Jean Fuller, Bill Maze, and Audra Strickland, respectively. In the State Senate, Kern is part of the 16th and 18th districts, which are held by Democrat Dean Florez and Republican Roy Ashburn, respectively.


Kern County's geography offers a wide variety of outdoor geography. Among the outdoor recreational activities are: Horseback riding, water skiing (Lake Buena Vista, Lake Ming, and private ski ranches), offroad biking and dune buggys (Jawbone Canyon, California City, and Randsburg), auto racing (Willow Springs, Buttonwillow, Bakersfield Speedway, Famoso, & and an unnamed half-mile speedway under construction), hunting, paint ball courses, white water rafting, Olympic quality kayaking, snow skiing (Shirley Meadows), shooting ranges (5 Dogs Creek Range), hiking, biking (trails, paths, and roads), camping, fishing, and other activities.

Cities over 300,000 population Edit

Cities over 50,000 populationEdit

Cities over 10,000 population Edit

Cities under 10,000 population Edit

Towns and CDPs Edit

The following are towns or census-designated places within Kern County:

Towns over 10,000 population

Towns over 1,000 population

Towns Under 1,000 population

Adjacent CountiesEdit

Transportation InfrastructureEdit

Major HighwaysEdit

Public transportationEdit




  • Bakersfield Californian[3], Bakersfield, north/west Kern
  • The Mountain Enterprise, southwest Kern mountains area
  • Mojave Desert News [4], east Kern desert area
  • The Daily Independent [5], Ridgecrest, China Lake, and The Indian Wells Valley
  • The Kern Valley Sun, Kern Valley area


  1. ^ [1] Rio Tinto Borax. Accessed July 3, 2007.
  2. ^ People at Risk In 25 Most Ozone-Polluted Counties American Lung Association. Accessed January 5, 2007.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 35°20′N 118°43′W / 35.34, -118.72

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Kern County, California. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.