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For Immediate Use                                                                                               Contact: Alison Sheehey, (760) 378-2531
November 30, 2009                                                                                                           

Kern Valley Ranching History with Walter Mecham

Free Monthly Event at Audubon's Kern River Preserve

The Friends of the Kern River Preserve will hold our free monthly family program on Saturday, December 5, 2009 from 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. at Audubon’s Kern River Preserve.

Walter Mecham will be our guest speaker, relating his personal experience and family history about ranching in Kern County.

Human history in the Kern River Valley goes back at least 3,000 years but it has only been the last 150 years that ranching has taken on an important role. The first recorded person of European descent to enter the Kern Valley was Captain Joseph Walker in 1834. He returned to the valley in 1843 working as a guide for emigrants traveling to the coast of California.

In 1853, gold was discovered along Greenhorn Gulch in a community that became known as Keyesville. The search for gold by prospectors soon gave way to the reality that little gold would be found and that left poor economic prospects for the hungry emigrants. Soon they realized that the abundant water and forage in the valley and nearby mountains were perfect for sheep and cattle ranching.

Andrew Brown adopted the valley as a homesteader in the 1860’s and opened a mercantile. He ended up becoming one of the valley’s largest landowners after many homesteaders defaulted on loans. The original Kern River Preserve included part of the A. Brown Ranch. Over the years, preserve expansion has protected part of the Palmer and Alexander Ranches.

The ancestors of Walter Mecham, 64, came into Kern County as part of the original gold rush but then settled into a ranching or farming life. Walter's great-great grandparents on the Alexander and Palmer side were first generation Americans and had ranches along the South Fork. Walter’s grandfather Mecham was one of the pioneer settlers near Buena Vista Lake in the San Joaquin Valley.

Walter was born in Bakersfield and spent his toddler years in a house that was located where the South Fork Elementary School now sits. Although his family moved to the desert and parts further afield in pursuit of economic opportunities, Walter would return each summer during his childhood to help his uncles herd cattle and irrigate pastures in the valley and local mountains.

His love for the Kern River Valley and the South Fork Kern River is deep. His memories of summers playing Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett deep in the forest always bring a smile to his face. He is so happy that Audubon and its partners are working hard to protect the legacy of ranching and open space from development in the South Fork Valley.

Please join us to learn about this amazing profession and share in the history of a 5th generation Kern Valley cowboy.

This free, all ages event is open to all interested people (children are welcome but those under 13 must be accompanied by an adult).  Please dress for the weather and bring sunscreen and bug spray just in case. 

For more information please contact us at (760) 378-2531 or email:  To find the preserve travel to Weldon on Highway 178. There is a large Audubon California sign at the entrance to the Kern River Preserve, 1.1 miles east of the t-intersection at Hwy 178 and Sierra Way.  Turn on the dirt road and drive .2 miles to our parking area inside the forest. See our maps & directions page if you are coming from outside the immediate area.


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