McNally's Fairview Lodge and Restaurant
Photo © From Kern Valley Museum
McNally's is a resort with a Famous Steak House that is well know for giant great tasting steaks. All steaks are cut to order by the in-house butcher. The Wild and Scenic North Fork of the Kern River runs right through the middle of the resort.
McNally’s Restaurant is famous for its huge portions of great quality dry-aged beef. The biggest steak is a 40 oz Porterhouse that was long ago named the “Logger” because working loggers would come down order the biggest steak to be had. Those loggers were employed at the nearby Mount Whitney Lumber Company town, Johnsondale (saw mill operating 1937-1979).
The restaurant is also recognized as being one of a few that still hand cut their beef – hand cut for every order by the McNally’s in house butcher. The trimmings then go to the McNally’s Burger Stand (built in 1972 to provide breakfast for people staying at the Fairview Campground next door). The end result is a tasty "Steak" Hamburger for those stopping by the McNally’s Burger Stand (offering breakfast and lunch during summer) along the Sierra Mountain Highway, perhaps to stop also at McNally's General Store for fishing or camping supplies. Fishing Licenses are available as is an ATM and pay phone.
The present owners, Carol & Terry Anderson, have spent the last six years ensuring that McNally’s Restaurant has remained exactly as it was in the past while adding menu items and specials. Thursday night features a Prime Rib Special at the McNally’s Restaurant. And before the restaurant closes for the Winter, McNally’s features a special Thanksgiving Feast including Turkey, Pheasant and Quail followed by Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, green beans, Yams, coleslaw cranberry sauce and desert. Besides steaks, the restaurant features chicken and seafood entrees. Check out the restaurant’s menu.
As you enter McNally’s Lounge and Restaurant, you can’t help but notice the authentic historical items, like the cases boasting unique hand carvings by Gene Hoback. Gene is said to be of Native American heritage and to have worked for Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank, California. The story passed down says that Gene originally made these carvings in the early 40's for the McNally family in exchange for Whiskey. Five priceless carvings are located here – part of the rich history at McNally’s.
Although there may be many lodges and steak houses in the Sierra Nevada, few have the historical significance as does McNally’s Fairview Lodge on the Wild and Scenic Kern River. It has featured an operating dining hall and store for nearly 100 years and has ties to at least three founding fathers/historic figures, Charles Branch Tibbetts (1859-1940), Matt Burlando (1886-1930) and John E. McNally, Jr. (1913-2007).
1st owner of the 160 acre land grant (signed by President Grover Cleveland on August 21, 1896) where McNally’s is located was Charles Branch Tibbetts (1859-1940), son of Kern County Pioneers Roswell Goodspeed Tibbetts (1830-1912) and Helen Zeruah Branch Tibbetts (1829-1915) both born in Augusta, Maine. Roswell Tibbetts came to California as 2nd mate on a ship that rounded Cape Horn and cast anchor at San Francisco in the Gold Rush. In 1874, Roswell brought his family to Kern County and for many years conducted the American Eagle Hotel at Kernville, “the hostelry enjoying great popularity under his sagacious and genial oversight.”
Matt Burlando was born in Torino (Turin), Italy in 1886. He came to California and married Lupie Apalatea, who was the daughter of Francisco Apalatea (1850 - 1928) who moved to the Sierra foothills during the Gold Rush. After their marriage, Matt and Lupie Burlando moved up the Kern River to one of the Edison Camps where Matt worked as a blacksmith. After living in a tent for some time they built their first house. This served as a house, dining hall and store. They had 4 children: Isabell Blanche "Betsy", Johnny, Billy, Claud (aka ‘Skeeziks’).
After the birth of their 1st child, Betsy, Matt decided he wanted to go into business for himself. He started what was later known as McNally’s Fairview Lodge. Lupie served meals to Edison workers as well as tourists that had discovered the riches of the area. Matt also started burro packing business, taking people into the back country. A part of their house would later be used for the now famous McNally’s Steak House.
In 1915, Matt Burlando sold the Lodge and purchased his father-in-law Francisco Apalatea’s 160-acre ranch, 3 miles north of Old Kernville. After the construction of Lake Isabella, what had been their 160 acres became the center of the current town of Kernville where Burlando Road remains an important thoroughfare.
John E. McNally, Jr. (April 9, 1913 - July 6, 2007) was in St. Louis, Missouri and came to the Kern River Valley in the early 1930s. He worked as a ranch hand and a farmer at the Scovern Hot Springs Resort and Ranch owned by Louis G. Scovern. Scovern and his wife, Edna, had a daughter, Pauline.
Pauline Scovern and Johnny E. McNally married in 1936. During the 1940s, Johnny produced the Sierra Roundup Rodeo at Scovern Hot Springs and went on to be a rodeo stock contractor and continued producing shows in California and Nevada until the mid 1950s. In 1940, he and Pauline moved to Fairview, about 15 miles above Kernville, which already had a lodge where “family style” meals were served. Johnny and Pauline turned the restaurant at Fairview into a steakhouse. “We started serving those big steaks,” McNally said. “They were $3 then.” He ran a pack station there, between Bob Welch's and Earl Pascoe's at Roads End.
They continued to call the restaurant Fairview Lodge, but subsequent owners renamed it Johnny McNally's Steakhouse. When John would see “Johnny” in print, he’d try to correct it to John E., but Johnny stuck. He and Pauline retired from the McNally Steakhouse business after 15 years. Their daughter, Mary Ann Cole, and her husband, Bill, then ran it for another 14 years from 1960 to 1974.
John E. McNally, Jr. had also served as a Sheriff's Deputy for Tulare County, responsible for a remote thousand-square-mile section in the southeast corner of the county. In his book titled North Fork Country, the late Bob Powers wrote, “[McNally] was a cowboy-type sheriff who worked a small town with dirt streets and a vast road-less area beyond. He was rugged enough, and cared enough, to take the job he had. I would hate to live in this country without men like him.”
During McNally's long and varied career in the Kern River Valley, he also worked for the Southern California Edison Company which has a long history in the Sierra Nevada. Hydroelectric development began along the Kern River in 1894 and the Borel powerhouse was completed 10 years later on the lower Kern River. In 1907, the Kern River-Los Angeles Transmission Line began operation, bringing power generated by the Kern River to run Henry E. Huntington’s growing streetcar system in Los Angeles. At 118 miles and 75 kV, that Kern River-Los Angeles Transmission Line was the world's longest and highest voltage power line at the time, and the first line in the nation to be entirely supported by steel towers. Edison constructed and operates two other hydroelectric plants on the Kern River: KR-1, built between 1904 and 1907 (the KR-1 intake is located at Democrat Dam downstream from Borel powerhouse and the KR-1 powerhouse is located near the mouth of Kern Canyon), and Kern River No. 3, completed in 1921 (the Kern River No. 3 intake is located at Fairview Dam and the Kern River No. 3 powerhouse is located just upstream from ‘new’ Kernville).
John and Pauline McNally had over 1,250 acres in the Kern Valley at both the Scovern Hot Springs and at Canebrake. Before the construction of Lake Isabella, Old Kernville and the Kern Valley provided location sites for many Western movies. Irwin Wofford had the contract to provide horses and cattle for these Westerns and John E. McNally, Jr. was one of the ranchers who rented out his stock to the movies. In the 40s and 50s, McNally also supplied horses and cattle for rodeos as far away as Nevada and Oregon. He supplied animals for the Kernville Rodeo and maintained the grounds and buildings for several years. The Kernville Chamber of Commerce named those rodeo grounds the “John E. McNally Rodeo Grounds” and they remain in active use.
McNally also worked as a logging truck driver for Mount Whitney Lumber Company. He drove a DW-20 while working on the Isabella Dam project in the late 40s, early 1950s.
Along with author/historian, Ardis Manly Walker, John helped to start the annual Whiskey Flat Days Parade in 1957 and he was there announcing from a portable stand in Circle Park for 28 years. He also served as the parade's Grand Marshall. Before his death at age 94 in July 2007, John E. McNally, Jr. said, “I wouldn't trade anything I've done. I'd do it all over again. My life has been very interesting with lots of experiences.”
McNally's 8th owners were John & Becky Saltzgaver who owned the resort approximately 1971-2003 and sold it to current owner/operators Carol & Terry Anderson.
Behind McNally’s is a suspension footbridge crossing the North Fork of the Wild and Scenic Kern River. That footbridge is the only crossing between the Johnsondale Bridge and the Kernville Road Bridge 15 miles South in Kernville. It is important to hikers and back-packers. From the Fairview footbridge, the Whiskey Flat Trail runs for approximately 14.5 miles south through the Sequoia National Forest to the trailhead at the north end of Burlando Road in Kemville. Close to the McNally's footbridge are the Flynn Canyon and Tobias Creek Trails too.
The largest wildfire in the history of the 1.2 million acre Sequoia National Forest started near McNally’s Fairview Lodge. The 150,700-acre McNally Fire began as a careless, untended campfire on Sunday, July 21, 2002 near the near the Roads End Resort north of McNally’s Fairview Lodge for which the fire was named. The McNally Fire was 100 percent contained on Thursday, August 28, 2002, six weeks after burning on both the Sequoia and Inyo National Forests. The fire also burned 16,800 acres within the Giant Sequoia National Monument and threatened three Giant Sequoia groves: Packsaddle, Long Meadow, and Freeman Creek. Johnsondale and McNally’s were spared, but the Roads End Resort was among 14 structures lost in the McNally Fire. Even with the efforts of the controversial McNally/Sherman Pass Restoration Project, the effects of the McNally Fire will remain visible for decades.
Lodging Style and Amenities
McNally’s 6 motel rooms, cabin and 6 trailers are available all year long. At it’s quiet Mountain canyon location, there are no televisions or telephones in the rooms to interfere with guests experiencing a restful, true get away experience while spending the night on the Wild & Scenic Kern River.
McNally's motel rooms, each have two full size beds, coffee, seating area and bathroom. There is a cabin featuring one full size bed, one twin bed and a pull out sofa as well as a large kitchen area and bath.
The 6 travel style trailers at McNally’s all feature kitchens and bathrooms.
- One 12 foot travel trailer. The Pine, offers 2 twin beds but no hot water (and is priced accordingly).
- The 2nd 12 foot travel trailer, The Cedar, has a full size bed, and like the rest of the trailers, hot water.
- The 22' trailer with a private bedroom also features a futon bed is named The Ponderosa.
- The two 24 foot 5th Wheel trailers, The Oak & The Sequoia, both feature a full size bed and a twin bed.
- The Redwood is the largest trailer at McNally's is a 30 foot 5th Wheel trailer with a full size bed and a day bed.
Within steps from the resort you can fish, hike, mountain bike or river raft. We are in the middle of the beautiful Sequoia National Forest twenty minutes away from the Trail of 100 Giants, where you can see the most incredible large sequoia trees.
McNally's Fairview Lodge is located 15 miles North of Kernville on Mountain 99 also know as the Sierra Highway. Look for "Fairview" on the Forest Service Kern River Map.
Hours Open: Daily
Seasons Open: Mid February through November 30th
McNally's is a family owned establishment. We own and operate the resort. My wife and I live right here on the grounds. Everyone is treated as if they were family.
All of McNally's overnight rentals are Pet Friendly. There will be a one time cleaning fee of $25.00.