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2 Alyn Robert Brereton
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Pam Starr
Alyn Robert Brereton
Julie MacKinnon
Linda Pittman
Parham Pourahmad
Larry Whiting
Randall Finley
South Fork Wildlife Area - Site # 199
The South Fork Wildlife Area (SFWA) is a 1271-acre unit of the Sequoia National Forest along the western edge of the South Fork of the Kern River between the western boundary of the privately owned Audubon Kern River Preserve and the eastern shore of the Isabella Reservoir.

Background: Only two percent of California's cottonwood and willow river forests remain; twenty percent of them are found on a 14-mile stretch of the Kern River. These outstanding river woodlands sustain the state's largest population of willow flycatchers and are breeding habitat for endangered western yellow-billed cuckoos. Great blue herons move among cattails, joined by the woven nests of yellow-headed and tricolored blackbirds. Fish attract American white pelicans, western grebes, occasional ospreys, and bald eagles, while muddy banks reveal the tracks of beavers, coyotes, black bears, even mountain lions. Woodpeckers, grosbeaks, wrens, and warblers seek the forest's sheltered canopy, where snags serve as perches for red-shouldered hawks and northern harriers. Mule deer are common, and more than 100 species of butterflies have been sighted near Lake Isabella.

The Experience: In high water years, it is possible to kayak through the forest while quietly observing the wildlife or fishing (please remove any snagged mono-filament so wildlife is not harmed). In summer, wildlife trails can be an adventure to follow. Watch for ticks and check yourself after visiting the area. Both dog and deer ticks are found in this area. In normal years the South Fork of the Kern River will flow through the center of the wildlife area so plan on stopping at the water's edge or getting wet. The river is highest when the mountain snows are melting April through early June. In summer it normally braids to a meandering stream until upstream water diversions stop the flow entirely by late July. The dry river is normally replenished in late November depending on rain and snow fall.

Wildlife and Where to Find It: Wildlife viewing opportunities are best at dawn and dusk. Birds of grassland, open water, riparian, and shoreline habitats can be found. Species to look for include wintering populations of Bald Eagle and other raptors; year round populations of Western Grebe, Clark’s Grebe, American White Pelican, Osprey, Red-shoulder Hawk and Western Bluebird; and spring to summer populations of Tree Swallow, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Tricolored Blackbird, and Lawrence’s Goldfinch can be found. Mammals include mule deer, beaver, coyotes, gray fox, bobcat, striped skunk, wood rats, desert cottontail and raccoons.

Viewing Tips: More than 200 bird species. Uncommon migrants such as summer tanagers and yellow warblers. Birds of prey and waterfowl are seen year-round; waterfowl are best viewed in winter. Songbirds are butterflies are common in spring and summer. Look for cuckoos and flycathers from June to September. Deer trails connect site to TNC's Kern River Preserve.

Visitor Information: Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce - (760) 379-5236 - https://www.kernrivervalley.com/

Road Information:   Paved.  Dirt. 
Road Hazards: Accessible year round. The area is subject to flooding during years of high run-off. Flooding completely inundates it every 7 years or so, at which time it can be accessed by boat.

 Number of Parking Spaces: 0
Parking Fee: 
Proximity to viewing area:
 Pull-Through Parking: No
Parking Notes: Parking lots for South Fork Wildlife Area are on the south and north side of the wildlife area. Access to the southern parking is directly off of Highway 178 just east of South Lake and 1 mile west of Sierra Way. Drive down a dirt road (Patterson Lane) about 1/4 mile, the entrance to the wildlife area is on your right. Park and walk in.

To access the northern parking area, drive 11 miles east of town of Lake Isabella on Highway 178 to Sierra Way. Turn north on Sierra Way. The parking lot is directly off of Sierra Way, 3/4 of a mile north of the Sierra Way bridge over the South Fork of the Kern River. This part of the wildlife area is may be flooded from November to June. (The land around the Sierra Way bridge is privately owned by the National Audubon Society and not part of the publicly owned wildlife area.)

How to Get There: From Bakersfield on Highway 99, take Highway 178 east 45 miles. Continue driving past Lake Isabella on Highway 178 about 10 miles. Watch for U.S. Forest Service sign and turn left (north) onto dirt road. Drive 0.5 mile and turn right to reach parking area.

Contact Information
Managing Agency: USDA Forest Service - Sequoia National Forest
Agency Site URL: https://www.fs.usda.gov/sequoia
Physical Address:
, CA
Agency 2:
, CA
Manager Phone:
Site Phone: (760) 379-5646
County: Kern
Addition Website:  https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/sequoia/recarea/?recid=79911