Audubon Kern River Preserve
Photo © Alison Sheehey
Audubon's Kern River Preserve is a privately owned and operated wildlife sanctuary. It is a "National Natural Landmark" located fifty-seven miles northeast of Bakersfield along the South Fork of the Kern River in Weldon, Kern County, California. The headquarters is found on the old A. Brown Ranch. The decaying flour mill found just east of the Preserve's entrance stands testament to its agricultural past.
Audubon Kern River Preserve is the keystone for the South Fork Kern River which was one of the first of ten sites in the United States to receive "Globally Important Bird Area" recognition. The preserve has recorded 260 species of birds with a remarkable 108 nesting species. Along the 15 mile South Fork Valley, an amazing 339 species have been recorded. The preserve is a major breeding zone for the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Summer Tanager, and Willow Flycatcher. The Preserve is engaged in a habitat enhancement program to benefit the Preserve's nesting wetland species including Wood Duck, Mallard, and Cinnamon Teal.
Other attractions include the amazing diversity of mammals (48 species), butterflies (37 species), plants (312 species) and reptiles/amphibians (23 species). Springtime offers a wide variety of migratory birds every year, and wildflowers, if the winter rains have been adequate.
The South Fork of the Kern River is home to California's largest lowland riparian forest. It is one of four "Flagship Projects" of the California Riparian Habitat Joint Ventures. A shared effort between Audubon-California and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) originally preserved and restored 1,136 acres of this forest. In 1997, Audubon took sole ownership of the preserve. Since that time, the acreage has increased to 2,987 acres. Audubon has also protected satellite sanctuaries along Kelso Creek and along the South Fork Kern at the head of the South Fork Valley.
The Preserve offers quiet contemplative recreation opportunities. Wildlife observation, birding, photography, historical touring, botanizing, wildflower appreciation, nature education and hiking are popular activities. Visitors may picnic in the headquarters area. The Preserve is a pack in/pack out facility (there is no garbage service).
There are four nature related festivals per year which take place the first weekend in May, second Saturday in June, first Saturday in August, and the last Saturday in September. There are monthly education programs on the first Saturday of each month. There are also monthly volunteer work parties on the third Saturday of each month. There are three Christmas Bird Counts on Audubon property in the Kern Valley. There is also an annual butterfly count in April.
There is NO hunting, fishing, camping, bicycling, or motorized recreation allowed on the Preserve.
The Preserve headquarters area and trails are open 365 days of the year from dawn to dusk.
Fees: Free, but donations are welcome for this non-profit private sanctuary.
Disabled persons can access the port-a-potty and there is a small wheel-chair accessible ramp leading to the visitor's center.
At this time there are no trails or other access for the disabled without assistance. Some trails are too narrow but the two rough old farm roads are wide enough for a wheel chair that is pushed by a moderately strong helper.
Pets are allowed, but discouraged on the preserve. Pets must be on a six-foot or less leash at all times. Owners must clean up and pack out any pet excrement. There is no garbage service at the preserve.