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Kern River Valley: Birding Access, Flooding

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  • Bob Barnes
    Hi, 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
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 25, 2011


      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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