Bakersfield Field Office

Archaeological / Cultural

General Information

Cultural resources in the Bakersfield Field Office cross a large expanse of land from the eastern margin of the Great Basin, westward across the Sierra Nevada Range and the San Joaquin Valley or south Central Valley. The area continues westward encompassing public land parcels in the Coast and Transverse Ranges to the Pacific. Ethnographic and historic records attest to the cultural diversity represented in these geographic provinces. Cultural regions primarily consist of all or part of the territories of the Tubatulabal, Western Mono, Kawaiisu, Paiute, Southern Valley and Foothill Yokuts, Chumash, Kitanemuk and the Salinan peoples. 

The earliest inhabitants to the valley, found in the vicinity of the ancient Tulare and Buena Vista Lakes region, date back about 8,0000 to 12,0000 years ago to the Paleo-Indian Period. Prehistoric resources from various periods that commonly occur in the resource area are food processing stations such as bedrock mortars and milling slicks, rock art paintings and petroglyphs, stone tool and flake scatters, special use ritual localities, temporary and the long-term procurement of biological and geological resources.

Historic resources on public land parcels are primarily confined to the Sierra Nevada Range and the San Joaquin Valley. For the Sierra's, the first known Euro-American passage through the region was Joseph R. Walker. Walker was part of the Bonneville Expedition that entered California by crossing the Sierra Nevada's adjacent to Yosemite Valley in 1833. Walker's party exit from California was through Walker Pass in 1834. Keyesville from circa 1853 to the early 1870s was a center for both placer and quartz gold mining. Nearly overnight, the town of Hogeye sprang up, later called Keyesville. In 1854, Richard Keyes discovered the "Keyes Mine" in the gulches of the Greenhorn Mountains. By 1857 Keyesville was at its height with several hundred miners living in the town. A. L. Lightner had a quartz mill along the Kern River, processing ore from the Mammoth Mine and the Keyes Mine. The community of Bodfish, originally called Vaughn, became a stage stop with a tavern in 1864. A mining camp was established in 1863 called Williamsburg. It became popularly known as Whiskey Flat until the name was changed to Kernville in 1864. In 1866 Havilah became the first county seat for Kern County. Cattle grazing in the southern Sierra's started as early as the 1860s, followed later by sheep grazing that dominated the latter 1800s.

The first European expedition into the San Joaquin Valley in 1772 was lead by Pedro Fages and his Spanish soldiers as they ventured through the Tejon Pass to the valley. Later in 1776 Francisco Garces visited the area. Exploitation of oil resources began in the 1860s. Initially an oil well pit was dug in 1863 near Reward to a depth of ten feet. By the 1890s, refining oil near McKittrick became commercially productive. In 1899 the discovery of oil in the Kern River oil field north of Bakersfield started the first major oil boom in the region. Cattle and sheep operations were introduced in the valley in the mid-1800s. Soon livestock became an important industry in the region. Agriculture by 1855 was on the increase as a major economic endeavor. Today historic resources on the landscape attest to the importance of ranching, livestock, mining, and agricultural operations in the early settlement of Central California. 

Contact Information



Outdoor Recreation Planner


Bureau of Land Management

Bakersfield Field Office

3801 Pegasus Drive

Bakersfield, CA 93308

(661) 391 6000  







Model of a wikiup at San Joaquin Gorge

 San Joaquin River Gorge

Historic Walker Cabin at Keyesville


Interior view of Painted Rock archaeological site on the Carrizo Plain

 Carrizo Plain



Historic marker in Keyesville


Grassy field with rocks and trees at the San Joaquin River Gorge
San  Joaquin
River Gorge Special Recreation Management Area
Carrizo Plain National Monument logo
Carrizo Plain National Monument
 Piedras Blancas logo
Piedras Blancas Outstanding Natural Area

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