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
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
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:
firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
directions page if you are coming from outside the