Kern River

Friends and family enjoy a quiet day alongside the Kern River as the sun sets over the horizon.

Mark Nessia

With the drought behind us, we are left to marvel at the wonders of nature as a river runs through our city. A record snow pack is melting and finding its way into our once dusty riverbed. Bakersfield is transformed.

The sustained flow of water in the Kern River has caused an explosion of plants and wildlife life. The circle of life is spinning a million miles per hour. The lush shores of the Kern are brimming with abundant food for the herbivores. Herbivores give rise to carnivores and those who like to consume both (that would be omnivores). Suffice it to say, the food web has exploded and its bounty is plentiful.

Use of the bike path is way up and not just by the two-legged variety. If you’re a frequenter, you’ve noticed it’s become the squirrel and rabbit version of the video game “Frogger.” For those who cycle, it’s a veritable slalom course of four-legged ground huggers that can’t seem to decide whether to zig or zag.

The once nearly dead cottonwood and black willows trees have been resurrected. Birds of curious origin are everywhere.

Locals can be spotted standing motionless on the river bank, mesmerized by the swirling eddies of water and smiling ear to ear. (The medical term for this condition is “Kern River Catatonic Paralysis” or “River Zombie-ism”).

I can’t get enough of our river. I’ve paddle boarded through town, ridden my mountain bike along the shoreline and, at times, joined the spaced-out river zombies standing on the shore.

My fondest memory, thus far, came from on a morning bike ride toward Enos Lane. As I was pedaling along a storage pond, a flock of white-billed ibis exploded out of a mossy patch of water. One of them lifted off with a small raft of moss covering its head and eyes. Blind and disoriented, it hovered and gyrated in flight drifting backward in the breeze toward some power lines. In a moment, the mossy patch dislodged and sight was restored. The bird flew to safety.

Enjoy it safely while it lasts. The last time we saw flow like this was 2011. Hopefully we won’t have to wait so long for another transformation. 

Harry Starkey is the general manager of the West Kern Water District. The views are his own.

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