Locals say Kern River Valley hurt by misconceptions of water levels

KERNVILLE, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) With California's ongoing drought, members of the Kern River Valley say tourism has dropped significantly amid "misconceptions" of the region's water levels.

Some locals claim that many people have the wrong perception of the levels in the Kern River or Isabella Lake, which they say are still plenty full to host rafting, fishing and boating trips.

"There really is no normal season on the Kern River," says Luther Stephens with White Water Voyages in Kernville. "We've been running trips since April 5th. We're planning on running the upper Kern through the seventh of June."

Across the street, Lucian Whitman owns SoCal Rafting. He says the river is typically about four times higher than where it is right now.

"When the water's low like this, you hear the news screaming, 'The water's low! There's no water, there's no water!' The reality is, white water boating is safe and it's fun," Whitman says.

Cheryl Borthick, president of the Kernville Chamber of Commerce, and owner of Cheryl's Diner in the same town, says the misconception has hurt the local economy.

"You can go down any of the business streets in any of the towns here and see vacant store fronts," Borthick says. "But there's good things happening too. Those of us that have made it through the drought, we're making it.

"We still have water; it's just not as high as it's been in the past. And that's what we want people to realize," she added.

Down on Isabella, which currently sits at only 13 percent of its water capacity, Sgt. Nome Eades with the Lake Patrol says the water is definitely low, but the surface area of the lake is still plenty big.

"It's still a big lake, yes," Eades says. "But it is still a very big lake. Very big usable, fun lake."