The North Fork of the Kern River was in severe danger due to exorbitant,
uncontrolled visitor use in "Dispersed Camping Areas" on public lands.
There was too much impact from too many people concentrated along the river's edge that caused vegetation trampling and destruction, soil erosion, and enormous amounts of trash and human waste that was polluting the river and surrounding public lands.
We Cleaned It! Trash Warriors At Work!
Rex and Barbara Hinkey are the brother and sister team who founded Keepers of the Kern in October, 2013 after realizing complaining about a situation does not solve the problem. They made a plan, acted on it and it happened. Perfect timing, as there were so many who wanted changes; the communities, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, local businesses, visitors, and folks from all over the world who camp, fish and raft on this spectacular
white-water river. Keepers is now seven years old and going strong thanks to the volunteers and people who are following and supporting our mission.
One Person Can Make a Difference
Together We Can Make It Right
The Wild and Scenic Kern River is one of the finest rivers in
California and it needs to be protected!
Developed Campgrounds versus Designated Dispersed Camping Areas
Along the upper Kern River the U.S. Forest Service, Sequoia National Forest, owns six public developed campgrounds and they provide 232 family campsites that can sustain a maximum of 1,392 occupants. Campers are charged a fee and the developed campgrounds have rules that limit the number of occupants to six people and two vehicles per campsite and they provide adequate sanitation and trash disposal service.
The Forest Service also manages eight designated dispersed camping areas and, except for Old Goldledge, the areas have no limits on the number of people and vehicles that can jam onto bare ground adjacent to the river. This situation is not new. These areas have been heavily impacted over several decades and remain a threat to the Wild and Scenic Kern River. Other National Forests such as the Inyo closed heavily impacted dispersed camping areas to overnight camping many years ago.
In the upper Kern River area the Forest Service has worked on limiting the degradation of vegetation and soils by placing boulders that delineate parking areas and prohibits overnight camping outside of the developed campgrounds and designated dispersed camping areas. The Forest also prohibits camping within 25 feet of the River's edge and the use of glass containers. These actions help but, except for Old Goldledge, there are no limits on the number of people and vehicles allowed to camp in the designated dispersed camping areas. Because these areas are free to overnight campers the Forest Service does not have the funds to control their overuse and struggle to provide adequate sanitation and trash disposal even with the additional rented trash bins and portable toilets provided by Keepers of the Kern donations.
The photographs below that show two designated dispersed camping areas were taken during July 2020. As you can see they are not dispersed camping areas but rather are maximum impact camping areas.
- The Kern River Valley's economy is driven by recreation and tourism and a clean and healthy Kern River
and Lake Isabella is essential to supporting local businesses, jobs and families. The recreation economics reports below show the importance of tourism and recreation to our economy.(1)
- There is tremendous public demand for recreational opportunities along the river.
- The existing recreation infrastructure cannot sustain the thousands of overnight campers who camp in the designated dispersed camping areas.
- The Keepers of the Kern see opportunities for better protection of the river's wild and scenic values and new public investments should be made in improving sustainable overnight camping and day use infrastructure.
The Kern River Desperately Needs New Public Investment
Here Is The Keepers of the Kern's Restoration Action Plan
(1) Here Are Recreation Economics Reports
The purpose of Keepers of the Kern is to bring the Kern River to a condition
that ensures public safety, environmental and human health.
During the past many years the Kern River's ecological balance has been damaged
by abuse and overuse by the public who recreate here.
It is imperative the problems be addressed by the responsible land management
agencies, the pollution stopped, management changes made, promotion of
Leave No Trace education and enforcement of resource protection rules and regulations.
Below are links to Forest Service recreation regulations (2-A) and Sequoia National Forest Recreation Orders (2-B).
(2-A) Here Are The U.S. Forest Service Recreation Regulations
(2-B) Here Are Sequoia National Forest Orders
The Keepers of the Kern actively cooperate with the Sequoia National Forest in improving recreational and sanitation facilities, and updating and improving the Wild and Scenic Kern River Management Plan. Below are links to the USDA Forest Service and USDI National Park Service Wild and Scenic River Management Plans for the Kern River.(3)
(3) Here Are The Wild and Scenic Kern River Management Plans