Saluting Taft: Gateway To The Carrizo

The city of Taft is known as the gateway city to the Carrizo Plain National Monument, a natural wonder seen by thousands every year.

The relationship promotes education for the public, as well as boosts tourism for the monument and the city.

"It's to encourage some of the visitors that come to the Carrizo to stay in Taft and have food, and fill up with fuel as they come to the monument as well as when they're leaving," said Johna Hurl, a manager for the monument with the Bureau of Land Management.

Hurl took ABC 23 on a tour of the Carrizo Plain for our week saluting Taft, showing some of the natural wonders that make the plain so special.

The Carrizo Plain is well-known for the stretch of the San Andreas Fault that runs down the eastern flank of the plain.

"It is one of the most photographed and studied areas of the fault because the features are very well-defined and we have low rainfall out here," Hurl said.

Perhaps the most glaring evidence of movement on the San Andreas is Wallace Creek. It used to be straight, but after the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake, it shifted about 30 feet horizontally.

"We get one of those events every 200 or 250 years or so," Hurl said.

Another highlight is Soda Lake, which greets drivers heading into the monument on Highway 58. It looks like a white dry lake throughout most of the year, but beneath the salty layer is a layer of wet mud, a phenomenon some test out each year as the waters recede.

"All of the outlet to the ocean and all of the stream flow and water flow is cut off, so actually all the water drains into Soda Lake and once you get the evaporation you get all these accumulations of salt," Hurl said.

The Plain extends for 250,000 acres, and is home to about a dozen endangered and threatened animal species, including the San Joaquin kit fox and the giant kangaroo rat.

It also is at the heart of discussion about energy production. Some firms have wondered whether the plain has oil reserves beneath the surface, and there are proposals to build two solar plants on land adjacent to the monument, which could someday provide jobs to residents in Kern County.

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