On the Grapevine   1 comment

Once, the area of the Kern River where we are located was known for its almost impenetrable jungle of wild grapevines.  When Billy was a boy, and his mother Irma had a rent string, they had to go out periodically and chop out the trails with machetes.  Otherwise, the horses would not have been able to push their way through.  The river bottom was a great spot for local kids — including author Gerald Haslam — to play Tarzan.  Huge old cottonwoods, thick lush willows, and above all the grapevines; it was as close to a real jungle as you could get.

Then came the Isabella Dam.

The river corridor dried out; the trees died, except for those closest to the river.  When I arrived on the scene, over forty years ago, their dead hulks were everywhere.  Now they’ve been reclaimed by the soil, and there is little sign left of the original habitat.  Things began to turn around, though, when the city acquired the river, and the water pumped hot and stinking from the oilfields gave way to a more natural flow.  Well, at least as far as the weirs west of Chester, and farther yet in good years.  But t’s the old jungle that Rich and Andy and the rest of the crew at Panorama Vista are trying to re-create; and they’ve got a good start, now.

But it was the wild grapes that gave the old river its character, and there are only a few left now.  We’ve got some; here’s a view of the river that’s framed by them.

With a good imagination, you can see what it must have been like seventy years ago.

Times have changed.  It’s no longer safe for kids to walk from town and play in the river.  But maybe someday, at least their parents can bring them to see what the river used to be.


Posted June 28, 2012 by stablewoman in Kern River, Nature

One response to “On the Grapevine

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  1. Elizabeth here…that was an excellent post! I learned so much…it is important to have a record of how it used to be and how it might just creep back to that in the future. Maybe.

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