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Visitors find Bonanza
in Wild-West Kernville
By CARY ORDWAY
Those people raised on TV westerns like Bonanza will feel like they've stepped right onto the Ponderosa when they take the one-hour drive northeast from Bakersfield to the town of Kernville. There's good reason: dozens of TV and movie westerns have been filmed in the immediate vicinity.
If you've always wondered where they came up with all that TV western scenery in California, the land of beaches and palm trees, one trip to Kernville and the mystery will be solved. The Kern River Valley, it turns out, has it all: mountains, river, forest and -- back when they were filming -- a western theme town that could double for any rough-and-tumble settlement in the Old West.
Today the town retains its western flavor with old-style buildings, antique shops, saloons and an impressive museum that displays an amazing amount of Kern Valley history. But today's cowboys—at least in the spring and summer—are the river rafters who come to Kernville in droves to ride the wild currents of the scenic Kern River.
The cowboy westerns were looking for good scenery when they scouted the Kern River Valley, and they certainly found it. Kernville is surrounded by mountains and, while some of the hillsides are golden and barren of vegetation, the Valley floor has hiking trails through plentiful groves of pine trees. There's even a giant Sequoia grove that is part of the Kern River Preserve.