Kernville is a census-designated place (CDP) in Kern County, California, United States. Kernville is located 42 miles (68 km) northeast of Bakersfield, at an elevation of 2667 feet (813 m). The population was 1,736 at the 2000 census.
The Kern River, Kernville and the Kern Valley they occupy were named after artist and topographer Edward M. Kern, who was a part a group of settlers led by Captain Joseph Reddeford Walker in 1845-46. They camped at what was a fork of two rivers, now the middle of Lake Isabella. An 1848 gold rush led to the formation of a town called Rogersville, which was later renamed Whiskey Flat after the introduction of bars. In 1861, the town was renamed Kernville.
After decades of planning, the Isabella Dam project began in 1948. As a result, Kernville was moved upstream to its present location at the tip of the northeast fork of the man-made lake. The town has since continued to maintain its gold rush and old west roots to attract tourists and take advantage of nearby natural scenery and activities. The town's original location is slightly east of Wofford Heights. Foundations and such can still be seen when the lake is low. The famous Mountain Inn, built mainly to house movie stars and crew before the 1948 move, is now (partially) at the new Kernville, renamed the River View Lodge.
Whiskey Flat Days is the annual celebration of the historic wild west days of the area. Parade, wild west shootouts and historic camps, carnival, vendors and rodeo or just part of the festivities put on every President's Day weekend and attended by thousands of visitors.
Kernville has a large tourist industry centered on the white water rapids of the Kern River. While white water rafting is the main attraction, one can also enjoy mountain biking, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities. Fly fishing is also popular; in particular, the golden trout is highly sought after for catch and release fishing. Downtown Kernville has an Old West look and contains a number of restaurants, antique shops and motels. The Kern Valley Museum houses a collection of historical items and displays. The nearby Kern Valley Airport is a popular general aviation destination for pilots, with on-site services including riverside camping and restaurant. The Needles granite formations about 25 miles toward the northern end of the valley are visible from some higher elevation locations.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,736 people, 800 households, and 482 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 137.5 people per square mile (53.1/km²). There were 1,210 housing units at an average density of 95.9/sq mi (37.0/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 90.55% White, 0.21% Black or African American, 2.07% Native American, 0.69% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 2.19% from other races, and 3.23% from two or more races. 8.18% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 800 households out of which 15.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.6% were married couples living together, 7.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.8% were non-families. 34.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.99 and the average family size was 2.50.
In the CDP the population was spread out with 20.2% under the age of 18, 3.6% from 18 to 24, 17.2% from 25 to 44, 28.4% from 45 to 64, and 30.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 52 years. For every 100 females there were 111.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.0 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $28,352, and the median income for a family was $33,409. Males had a median income of $43,875 versus $16,648 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $23,159. About 15.4% of families and 17.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.4% of those under age 18 and 8.9% of those age 65 or over.