The wild Kern River, which flows through Kernville en route from Mt. Whitney to Bakersfield, delivers some of the most exciting white-water rafting in the state. Kernville (population 1,400) rests in a mountain valley on both banks of the river and at the northern tip of Lake Isabella, a dammed portion of the river used as a reservoir and for recreation.

Old West–style buildings line Kernville's main streets, reflecting the city's heritage as a rough-and-tumble gold-mining town once known as Whiskey Flat. Present-day Kernville dates from the 1950s, when it was moved upriver to make room for Lake Isabella. The road from Bakersfield includes stretches where the rushing river is on one side and granite cliffs are on the other.

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