Begin Exploring the Keyesville SRMA here:
ADVERTENCIA! El río Kern es muy peligroso!
Keyesville no tiene ninguna zona segura para nadar.
Warning! The Kern River is dangerous! Keyesville has no safe swimming areas.
The bilingual message above is being spread throughout the BLM managed Keyesville Special Recreation Management Area in an effort to educate users as to the dangers of the Kern River.
BLM staff want trying to ensure all users are well aware of the dangers of swimming in the Lower Kern River.
BLM has placed additional signs and information in kiosks, stressing the dangers associated with swimming in the Kern River. In addition, flyers with information in English and Spanish will be distributed to visitors to stress the message and hopefully avoid future drownings.
Location and Facilities
The Keyesville Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA); located near the communities of Lake Isabella and Kernville, consists of approximately 7,000 acres of BLM-managed land contiguous to the US Forest Service Sequoia National Forest. Information on nearby Forest Service camping and recreation sites can be found on their website.
Keyesville named for a historic mining community, provides the setting for a full array of recreational opportunities, including white-water rafting, opportunities for mountain biking and recreational gold prospecting, all in addition to hunting, fishing, camping and off-highway vehicle opportunities provided in the area.
Dispersed camping is allowed in the Keyesville SRMA, in addition there are also developed facilities, which include three raft launch sites, six vault toilets and a variety of kiosks, and information boards. Dumpsters are provided on both sides of the river. You must pick up your own trash, BLM employees are not responsible for picking up after you!
All camping is on a first come basis, no fees are collected, and we do not take reservations. There are no developed campsites, picnic tables or fire rings.
Due to high fire danger, extreme caution must be taken at all times when building, maintaining, attending, or using open fires, campfires, or stove fires. Check the BLM Bakersfield webpage "News, Events & Alerts" column for updates on fire restrictions. Campfires are usually prohibited from May until the first good rain. Propane stoves are allowed with a valid campfire permit.
Please check the kiosks for up-to-date information. Visitors are responsible for knowing and complying with the rules for the area! These are your public lands - help preserve Keyesville by staying on designated roads & trails and picking up litter.
By far the most dramatic natural feature of the parcel is an approximately 3.5-mile stretch of the Lower Kern River Gorge. This important white- water river attracts about 12,000 commercial and non-commercial rafters from all over the USA each year. The river and its tributaries are also used by recreationists for gold panning. Gold mining was and still is an historic use of this site. Several unfenced mine shafts exist and present a significant hazard to recreationists.
Another attraction to the Keyesville area is fishing. Some anglers try their luck in the Kern River for trout and bass. But be careful, the rocks along the river were polished smooth by spring floods before the Lake Isabella dam was built and the river current can be swift and dangerous.
The Keyesville area receives a high amount of recreational use because of the access to the Lower Kern River and the availability of trails for off-highway vehicles (OHVs) and mountain bikes. The visiting public comes from nearby communities and as far away as Los Angeles. Specific recurring uses include a very active white water rafting program (administered through a cooperative agreement with the Forest Service) and the annual Keyesville Classic (map), a National Off Road Bicycle Association sponsored stage race. BLM maintains three launch sites for support of river rafting trips, referred to as "BLM South, Slippery Rock, and Keyesville Bridge". BLM is working with the Forest Service and local user groups, to keep useable trails open and to correct problem areas which present safety concerns or are causing resource damage. Recreational mining is permitted in Sec. 25 SE¼, Sec. 36 N1½NE¼, SE¼ , T. 26 S., R. 32 E., MDB&M, areas withdrawn from the general mining laws. See the map link on the right.
The BLM Keyesville area is managed to protect riparian and cultural resources while providing for recreational use (with particular emphasis on white-water rafting, mountain bicycling, and recreational mining). Primitive camping is a popular activity in this area.
Ethnographically, the area was occupied by the Palagewan Tubatulabal Indian group. Various cultural resources are located within this area with many areas of bedrock mortars. Historic resources include placer and hardrock gold mines, the Walker cabin, cemetery, Keyesville village, and the fort. All cultural and historic resources are protected by law. Enjoy looking at them but leave them undisturbed for others to enjoy and for future scientific study.
The Keyesville area played a significant role in the early American western expansion, settlement, and mineral exploitation in California. Joseph R. Walker, who led one of John C. Fremont's expeditions over Walker Pass in 1834, earned the honor of being the first white American to have entered Kern Valley. In 1851, gold was first discovered on Greenhorn Creek near the Kern River by an exploration party sent out by John C. Fremont. This discovery led to the first Kern River gold rush. The town of Petersburgh, near the summit of Greenhorn Mountain, was established about 1858 and became an important overnight stop and supply point. The earthen Keyesville Fort was constructed during the Tule River Indian War of 1856 to protect the settlers, but was never utilized.
After discovery of placer gold in the Kern River in the spring of 1854 a stampede of miners began to the area. By January 1855, the area was again swarming with miners. But, even before this rush, in 1852 Richard Keys, discovered lode gold. Soon afterward, Captain Maltby discovered the nearby Mammoth mine. Abia T. Lightner constructed the first stamp mill in the area. By 1858 there were five water driven mills with 22 stamps. However, the floods of 1861 - 1862 destroyed them all. The town of Keyesville supported about 50 to 60 people and boasted eight houses, a saloon, and crude hotel. A 20-stamp mill was erected in 1865 on the Kern River, but the mill proved inefficient and only ran a short time. After the Euro-Americans had heavily mined the gulches for placer gold, the Chinese arrived to work the sands.
Mines in Keyesville were idle until a 1897 revival. During this time, a 5-stamp mill was erected at the Keyes mine and a 10-stamp mill at the Mammoth. Both mines were intermittently active until about World War II. The Keyes mine produced a total of $450,000 and the Mammoth about $500,000. Due primarily to the high cost of underground mining of the relatively small ore bodies, mining has given way to sheep and cattle ranching although small scale underground hard-rock and placer gold mining continues today. The historic townsite of Keyesville is situated on private land and is little more than a ghost town.