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KERNVILLE FLOODING ONE-YEAR LATER: Hard Hit Businesses Show Resiliency By Building Back Better

The grounds of Frandy Park Campground and Camp Kernville were almost entirely under the Kern River during flooding on Kernville on March 10, 2023.
Posted at 10:32 AM, Mar 12, 2024
  • Video shows the massive flooding that hit Kernville last year, the devastating impact it had on two riverside campgrounds, and how the campgrounds look now, one year later.
  • Campgrounds Frandy Park and Camp Kernville has had busy years, spending countless hours fixing their grounds after flooding fro the Kern River washed away infrastructure and deposited massive amounts of debris.

“Devastated, heartbroken,” said Beverly Demetriff the General Manager of Frandy Park campground, describing how she felt last year when flooding put the campground almost entirely underwater.

She wasn't alone.

“Our entire park was obliterated,” said Jennifer Hendricks, General Manager of Camp Kernville

On March 10, 2023, a majority of both campgrounds were under the Kern River.

“It's hard to see something that your family has worked to build for a very long time just to be destroyed within a few hours," Hendircks said.

Flows reached 45,000 cubic feet per second on the North Fork of the Kern River, surpassing a 50-year record.

Flooding also impacted Riverside Park.

"It did so much damage and it really kept away a lot of the vacationers.,” said Orion Sanders, President of the Kernville Chamber of Commerce.

“A lot of the tourism people were terrified of the river, and the river was speaking quite loudly last year,” said Demetriff.

“We had probably four or five feet of dirt and sediment within the actual shower.”

All the businesses in Kernville were impacted.

“They're still trying to recover from not having that big tourism year like we're used to,” Sanders said.

“We found tables wrapped around trees,” Demetriff recalled.

Despite the immense task, with the busy season right around the corner, both campgrounds were determined to open as soon as possible.

“There was never a time when we thought that we would be closed for the season,” Hendricks said.

“The water receded and it left a mess. Messes can be cleaned up,” Demetriff said.

The task was immense.

At Frandy, debris was piled 12 feet high, and it was solely on her to remove it. Working with volunteers and heavy machinery, Demetriff said she had to focus on single sections of the campground at a time, or the task would seem too overwhelming to complete.

“It was over 200 loads to the dump of debris,” Demtriff said.

The campgrounds not only had to remove debris, but they also had to bring in massive amounts of materials like dirt, rock, and woodchips to restore the camping spots.

“I want to say that we brought in 160 truckloads of dirt,” Hendricks said, “My dad is in his 70s and he worked every single day for 60 days straight.”

Both managers told me they didn’t only restore the grounds, but they took this as an opportunity to improve them.

“It knocked us down in the knees. But we came back and the campsites are looking better than they were before,” said Demetriff, “You could do a side-by-side comparison. It's amazing.”

Camp Kernville brought in sand to restore their beach.

“We are the only park in the Upper Kern that has a beach,” Hendricks said.

The campgrounds were both fundamentally changed.

“The river did a natural shift of about 20 feet towards town which increased our campsite areas along the riverbank,” said Demetriff, “It made this beautiful natural eddy.”

Demetriff kept some of the debris on the grounds intentionally.

“It made a natural dam,” She said, “You get lemons, you make lemonade.”

And despite all of their challenges, they're both optimistic about the upcoming year.

“It's still standing,” Said Hendricks, motioning to the large Camp Kernville sign held up by two wooden pillars, a sign that was plastered over news stations around America last year in footage that displayed the intense flooding.

“We put it back in position, we're getting ready to repaint the sign. And it's kind of our little beacon of hope.”

And the effort to rebuild is still ongoing at both campgrounds.

“We were able to top off with chips which makes it look very nice,” Demetriff said.

Demetriff and Hendricks credit community volunteers for helping restore the grounds.

“They stepped in. They helped us remove load after load, after load of debris," said Demetriff.

“The community support here is truly remarkable,” Hendricks said, “People taking time out of their lives to help other people in their time of need.”

Both said the damages cost their business over a hundred thousand dollars, and that it would take years to recuperate the cost of fixing up the grounds.

But that hasn’t dampened their spirits, and they’re looking forward to the upcoming busy season.

“We've converted a portion of our park to more riverfront sites, and we're open for business,” Hendricks said.

“It’s going to be a fabulous year. The snowpack is about 70%, rafting is going to be amazing, but the river is going to be at a level where it’s going to be great for families to come here and just chill out,” Demetriff said.

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