1910 panoramic view


Once  the Kern River ran unimpeded by development of any sort, free to flood the land and take any channel it wished, even creating new channels if it so desired.  

Since the 1870s, however, the river and  adjacent land below the Panorama Bluffs and on the valley floor have undergone many successive changes due to agricultural and industrial development;  native grasses, shrubs, and trees almost totally disappeared except in areas closest to the river,  plowed or ‘dozed under by farmers or petroleum operations.

Some native vegetation, especially that immediately adjacent to the river,  was spared from the blade, however, and was able to hang on because seasonal flooding kept the water table high.  But the construction of Isabella Dam in the 1950s meant an end to natural flooding and the water table began to drop.  Plant life farther from the river began to die off with resulting loss of wildlife habitat.

However, not everything died;  some cottonwoods, buttonwillows, and sycamores survived.  The fact these few are still there and healthy is a good sign that the water table is still within reach for them. 

So, although the riparian forest along the river is now narrow,  a major objective of the Preserve is to improve and expand the density and width of the habitat band lining the river.  The Kern River Corridor Endowment (KRCE), owner of the property, is pledged to revegetate only with plants whose genetic origins were on the Preserve itself.

Now that the land within the Preserve is protected, it is our hope that the flood plain can be revegetated with native trees, shrubs, and grasses.  Such vegetation is naturally adapted to a dry climate.   Hundreds of
young California sycamores, elderberries, bladderpod, buttonbushes, willows, and cottonwood (all propagated from Preserve stock) have been planted and are being watered with drip irrigation; the aim is that eventually they will be able to tap into the water table and be on their own. 
The revegetated habitat provides  food, roosting, nesting or hiding places,  and  shade for wildlife.  It is significant that the Preserve lies across the Pacific Flyway Migratory Route, which is especially important in drought years.

 Much more remains to be done.  Eradication of alien and invasive plants such as tumbleweed and ailanthus is also a high concern.

It will take time and money to restore the native habitat and to otherwise maintain the Preserve.  Hikers, horse people, birders, bicycle riders, and other members of our community are already enjoying the peace and tranquility of the place.  The Preserve is an important oasis today;  it will only become more important in the future. 


In 1937, the Kern ran more or less freely though what would become the Panorama Vista Preserve property except for water diverted into the Beardsley and Kern Island (Carrier) canals.  A portion of the riparian forest along the Beardsley had been converted to agriculture and dairy operations but trees  and other vegetation were thick close to the river.  

  By 1956, vegetation had become more sparse, especially north of the river.  Isabella Dam brought  flood control but with the result that the water table began to drop.  Vegetation that was dependent on abundant seasonal flooding began to wither and die.
In 1992, there is is even less vegetation.  Forty years had passed since Isabella Dam opened.

In this view from 2005, vegetation along the river appears slightly more lush although no planting projects had yet begun.  The areas away from the river are still barren.  Inside the two dotted red squares are a cottonwood and a black willow that survived increasing aridity around them;  they can be seen in  every aerial view from 1992 to the present. 


In 2006 and 2007, Andy Honig and Dr. Steve Hampson surveyed the Preserve to compile lists of the Preserve's native and non-native.  Honig and Hampson began collecting cuttings and seeds of native plants in order to begin the revegetation process.  Their initial plantings (in the area now called the Hampson Grove)  got off to a rough start due to an insect infestation (the False Chinch bug) and the work had to be repeated in 2008.  Watering was done at first with donated kitty litter jugs and later from a water tank on a trailer.  Today (2015) the sycamores have reached the water table;  elderberries are doing well also.  One cottonwood stands as a memorial to Dr. Hampson (1950-2007.)

In 2008, the Chevron Grove was planted from cottonwood and willow cuttings gathered by Honig and Hampson;  Chevron was mitigating for vegetation lost elsewhere in its operations.  The company assumed responsibility for watering the 100+ small trees;  as of 2015, this grove is thriving;  only a few of the plantings died.  The grove is now  a landmark on aerial photos  (see below)

Two major events in 2009 and 2010 were the refurbishing of an historic well from the 1940s and the construction of an onsite native plant nursery by volunteers;  in order to maintain genetic integrity,  cuttings and seeds from the property were collected and propagation efforts began.    Volunteers learned on the job what worked and what did not.


The KRCE partnered with River Partners, a nonprofit habitat restoration corporation  based in Chico and Modesto and new plantings were done in the area left of center in this photo. This is Phase I in long-term
plans for the restoration of Scrub and Riparian lands
on the Preserve.


By April 2011a bare stubble of new vegetation is visible in the field.  The 1940s well and an extensive system of drip lines provided water
for what is now known as the Brown Grove. 
Volunteers soon found it was a major job to
identity and repair leaks caused by rodents and
other critters.

  2014 detail Brown

Three years later, the stubble has developed into more of a five o'clock shadow.

The Chevron Grove is to the east. 

Winter 2014-2015
In late 2014,  work was commenced on Phase II of restoration work.  River Partners laid out the plans and contracted with the CCC to prepare and plant the land.

Part of Phase II is creation of a new grove in an area tucked between the Kern River and the Kern Island (Carrier) Canal;  the grove size is 101 acres;  water will come from the canal under an agreement with the City of Bakersfield.  This is the first significant planting done south of the river . 

The photo to the right shows the Kern Island Grove area before planting.  Below:  planting the area in the winter of 2014-2015


Kern Island Grove before 2014-2015

Kern Island Grove Area Before Planting
dividing line


The other part of Phase II is 28 acres to the north of the river;  this will divided to an area west of the Brown Grove and the eight acre Shell Grove  just north of the Hampson Grove.  Water contracted  from a nearby neighbor's well will supplement water from the old 1940s well. 



The Preserve is currently  divided up into five groves: the Hampson, the Chevron,  the Patricia Brown and the new  Shell and Kern Island groves.  The Chevron area outlined in pink and the River Ranches development are not part of the Preserve.