Kern County, Central California

Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella

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Keep Your Valuables Dry

Photo of Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella is a favorite recreation destination in Kern County and the greater Los Angeles area. Situated in the high desert, 40 miles northeast of Bakersfield, it's just enough off the beaten track to avoid huge crowds and yet close enough to LA to be convenient for a weekend outing. Water sports enthusiasts find calm water in secluded sections of the lake for water skiing and wakeboarding while anglers know one of the biggest largemouth bass ever caught came from Lake Isabella.

Concerns about dam safety have caused the Army Corps of Engineers to lower the water level to 63% of capacity. In 2006 the lake was identified as the most at-risk reservoir in the nation. Water was found seeping under one of the two earthen dams. Further investigation revealed that an active fault line runs under the dams and the alluvial rock in the dams' foundations puts them at risk for failure in an earthquake.


Lake Isabella draws boaters from all around the Bakersfield area. Sailors find a steady wind while canoes and kayaks are often seen exploring the many coves and inlets. Water skiers and wakeboarders enjoy the warm water and the lake's wide expanse. All boats must display a valid Lake Isabella boat permit. Boaters should be wary of strong winds that can come up even in the morning.


Lake Isabella has several public boat launch ramps located around the lake. Two marinas, owned by the same company, are situated on the western side of the lake. They offer full services and boat rentals.


Anglers at Lake Isabella can choose their prey. The lake is well-known for its largemouth bass, but it also has rainbow and brown trout, kokanee salmon, and smallmouth bass along with crappie, bluegill, and catfish. Lake Isabella is best fished from a boat, but shore anglers do well around the campgrounds and the dams. Wind on the lake can be a problem for fishing.


Lake Isabella has a good variety of campgrounds, most on the western side of the lake. There are also several fine RV Resorts, especially up the Kern River Canyon around Kernville


Lake Isabella has a number of moderately priced inns and lodges. Most of them are intended to serve anglers, boating enthusiasts, and visitors who come to enjoy in the Kern River. Kayaking and whitewater rafting are popular in the Kern.


Lake Isabella is surrounded by stark mountains and hills, a few with small trees. With the water levels lower than normal, expanses of barren shoreline are exposed.

Nearby Communities

Lake Isabella has a number of communities around its shores. Just to the south of the lake below the dams is the town of Lake Isabella. Up the west shore is Wofford Heights, while just to the north of the lake is the historic town of Kernville. Bakersfield is 40 miles to the southwest.


Lake Isabella Facts
Lake Size: 11,200 surface acres
Maximum Storage Capacity: 560,000 acre feet
Current Storage Capacity: 360,000 acre feet
Maximum Depth: 185 feet
Length: 6.5 miles
Shoreline: 38 miles
Dam Construction: 1953
Reservoir Manager: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Maximum Lake Elevation: 2,581 feet
Average Air Temperatures
  spring: 68 degrees
  summer: 86 degrees
  fall: 75 degrees
  winter: 52 degrees
Summer Water Temperature: 80 degrees

California's Greatest Lakes

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