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Painters Depict Scenery in Kern River Canyon to Advocate for Increased Hiking Access, Expanded Trails

The Kern Gateway Trail Committee is a group that is working towards the creation of a continuous trail from the Mouth of the Kern Canyon up to Democrat Dam.
Posted at 11:15 AM, Apr 26, 2024

KERN RIVER CANYON, Calif. (KERO) — The Kern River Canyon is a beautiful drive, but the Kern Gateway Trail Committee, want it to be known for more than that.

On Thursday local artists depicted the canyon while plein air painting to help spread the vision of the committee.

“It’s really a shame right now that when you come up into the canyon the only way you can experience the beautiful landscape is from the seat of a car,” said Jonathan Yates, Leader of the Kern Gateway Trail Committee.

Yates said that the first time he drove through the canyon he was struck by the scenery, but when he looked into it, he learned there wasn’t much access for hiking in the canyon.

“There actually are a number of hiking trails that are just off the highways that really aren’t improved enough for public access. What we are trying to do is connect those hiking trails into a big network.”

On Thursday Yates organized an open air painting session to help spread the word.

“We’re capturing the feel of what it’s like to be put here to encourage more people to be out here and see it.” said David Gordon, and landscape painter and owner of Bird Dog Arts.

Gordone mobilized local artists to plein air paint and depict the scenery of the canyon.

Roughly halfway up the Kern River Canyon multiple painters set up near Stark Creek.

“Kern County is my favorite subject,” Gordon said, “We have some of the most beautiful areas to paint, and this is truly extraordinary.”

The trails that exist were put in by entities like CalTrans and SoCal Edison, but lack the signage, parking and maintenance that other hiking trails have.

Yates hopes these existing trails can be connected to create one continuous trail.

“Improves access so that the community can find it very accessible and get out there and enjoy our public lands,” said Yates, “We’ve been working on this for about three years now, just trying to get buy-in from different stakeholders.”

There used to be access to a trail at the mouth of Kern River Canyon, but private landowners near there have blocked that access after they said the public abused the land.

Yates says the Kern Gateway Trail Committee is working with these private landowners to restore access to this trail but he says in the meantime, he asks the public to stay aways from the old trailheads and respect the private land at the mouth of the canyon.

Most of the land for the proposed trail is Forest Service land and Yates said they have shown interest, but are currently resource strapped.

“We have to go through getting more buy-in and also finding more resources to help pay for the environmental assessments and trail building that would need to happen,” Yates said.

Yates envisions a trail where residents could hike from the Mouth of the Canyon to Democrat Dam.

“I want people to drive East out of Bakersfield and drop into that area where you have that incredible view of the opening of the Kern Canyon,” Yates said, “Have this incredible emotional attachment to that space because they can climb out of their car there and they can climb to the top of the canyon walls there and continue on into the canyon.”

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