Kern River Valley: Birding Access, Flooding
Current CHALLENGES of BIRDING the KERN RIVER VALLEY area...
BEFORE a BIRDING trip to the Kern River Valley/Southern Sierra Nevada
area it is recommended you call the Sequoia National Forest for the
latest road conditions (closed and open roads): Lake Isabella
office... 760-379-5646; or Kernville office ... 760-376-3781. And,
check with the Kern River Preserve to find out about the road
conditions affecting birding in the South Fork Valley:
Which BIRDING AREAS are CURRENTLY NOT AFFECTED by flooding and road closures?
* Canebrake Ecological Reserve (east of Onyx)
* CA Hwy 155 through the Greenhorn Mountains
* CA Hwy 178 through the Kern River Valley, Chimney Peak Byway
* Isabella Reservoir south and west shores (plus some of the east
shore as accessed from Kernville)
* Kelso Valley Rd and desert oases south across CA Hwy 178 from
Kern River Preserve HQ entrance to Jawbone Canyon Rd near the south
end of Kelso Valley
* Kennedy Meadows Rd
* Piute Mtn Rd from the east off Kelso Valley Rd
* Tillie Creek Campground (in Wofford Heights)
* Walker Pass - entire region.
Which BIRDING AREAS ARE CURRENTLY AFFECTED based on conditions
present this past Saturday, April 23, 2011?
SIERRA WAY between the South Fork Valley and Kernville is CLOSED due
to a major ROAD COLLAPSE due to heavy rains earlier in the rain
season leading to steep hillside slippage tens of feet down toward
Isabella Reservoir.. Dates for reopening are uncertain ... maybe as
late as mid-summer or even later. It takes an extra 15-25 minutes
driving time to get from Kernville to the South Fork Valley via the
community of Lake Isabella. Several birding groups are locating at
the Lakeview Motel in Mountain Mesa (10 minutes west of the Kern
River Preserve) to avoid the Sierra Way closure and detour to/from Kernville.
SIERRA WAY is CLOSED to all traffic in the SOUTH FORK VALLEY as the
SOUTH FORK KERN RIVER has made a major COURSE CHANGE. Much of the
river's water is now flowing over Sierra Way from between 0.7 miles
north of CA Hwy 178 to the bridge over the river a quarter mile or
more to the north. That means Migrant Corner Trail is inaccessible
when the river is high and running over the road ... which has been
most of the time recently. That's the bad news! The good news is
Sierra Way is devoid of traffic ... quiet and birdy. This past
Saturday I parked my car well off Hwy 178 across from the south end
of Sierra Way and used the first 0.7 miles of dry road as a very wide
and paved, walking birding trail!
KERN RIVER PRESERVE HEADQUARTERS is currently CLOSED to all traffic
due to FLOODING in the slough channel on the entrance road on the way
in to HQ. There is a large snowpack in the mountains this year, The
road closure could be consistent to intermittent over a pretty long
time depending on when and how fast the snow melts. For those of you
familiar with the area, the South Fork Kern River now makes a north
to south bisect across the middle of the Colt Pasture and into the
slough channel (this bisect is found after about a ten minute walk
down the dirt ranch road leading west of the Headquarters parking area).
FAY RANCH ROAD had a thin sheet of water running over it in one
relatively narrow spot Saturday. But, it was easy to drive and
birdable. Depending on the when and how much of each day's snow melt
run-off, this road could be wide open or closed.
EIGHT FOOT SNOW PACK - Recent snow surveys measured an impressive
snow pack of EIGHT FEET on the Kern Plateau (the plateau and
mountains behind and above the Kern River Preserve). All but surely,
this means much of SHERMAN PASS RD and many other roads in the forest
will remain closed into late June, even into July as these roads is
are not plowed and when the snow clears there will still be several
days needed to clear the roads of an unusually large amount of downed
trees and other debris (vs. recent past years). The opening of road
to the TRAIL OF 100 GIANTS/WESTERN DIVIDE HWY will all but surely be
delayed significantly, too (by Memorial Day weekend? Into June?). Use
the Sequoia National Forest numbers given above for the latest road
closure and road open information.
Bob Barnes, Ridgecrest, Kern County, California
24/7 Cell Phone Number: 760-382-1260
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