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"Kern River Blues" was The Hag's last recorded song before he died. In it, Merle sang that he was "leaving town forever" and lamented that the Kern River was dry. It's been 45 years since the city of Bakersfield bought some of the rights to the Kern River, but the city continues to be thwarted in efforts to restore a flowing Kern River. Over the decades, a long string of disappointing setbacks for the river have piled up. With the State Water Board currently holding a hearing on the Kern River, it's finally time for the status quo to change and for the Kern to flow again - Merle would have wanted it that way. We can't lose another generation waiting for a flowing Kern River.


For a complete list of articles and other relevant media, check out our News page



Our mission is to see the Kern River be used to its highest potential. To do this, we need to establish dynamic minimum flow protections on the river. These protections will allow the rivers natural and sensitive ecosystems to be restored for future generations, it will allow the Kern to be enjoyed as a source of restorative beauty and recreation, and it will be a significant net positive benefit our local economy (direct jobs, increased property values, indirect jobs).

Not only is restoring a flowing river the right thing to do, it's the prudent thing to do, as all of these benefits can be realized with minimal impact to current businesses and farms dependent on the river (see FAQs).

Keep updated on news & ways to help Bring Back the Kern.

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Fighting for the return of this great river

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Few people can give a clear and accurate answer to explain why the Kern is so often dry. This is because the river's history and current situation is complex and hard to understand. The truth doesn't have to be confusing - we've done the work of distilling down the facts, making it easy for anyone to understand the history of water rights on the Kern River and how they affect the river today. Click here to learn more.


The Kern River has sustained our valley for years. The water from the river sustains farming operations that have made Kern County a top agricultural producer in the nation. Our goal is to work in concert with growers and community members to create a local ecology that is healthy for farming, wildlife, and our citizens. Returning water to the river is not an either/or proposition. It is possible to run water through the river and provide needed water to industry, but we need local leaders to think creatively, work cooperatively and find new solutions to old problems. Join the movement by signing the petition now.

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In recent years, dry rivers across California have been restored. This happened thanks to the determination and voices of local people. We need Kern County residents to speak on behalf of the river. Water flowing through the city will provide not only a healthier ecology, but also a healthier community. Every summer people die when they swim in the swift currents at Hart Park or in the Kern Canyon. Running water through the center of town provides a safe place for children and families to swim and play. People shouldn’t have to risk their lives to cool down in the summertime, but it will take many voices speaking together to make this change come about. Click here to learn about upcoming Bring Back the Kern events and how to get involved.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead


Bring Back the Kern is a group of Bakersfield residents united by both their love of community and the Kern River. This all-volunteer organization includes people from all walks of life. Some have spent years advocating for ecological issues, while for others this is their first experience with a community project. While our backgrounds may differ, our goal is shared: to improve the ecological and physical health of Bakersfield by running a regular flow of water down the Kern River. If you have a deep connection with the Kern and would like to be a part of our team, please reach out to us today

Powerhouse at mouth of Canyon sat sh HS_


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