Lake Isabella

Area Status: Open

The Isabella reservoir offers fishing, boating, water sports, camping, and picnicking. Close proximity to Los Angeles and Bakersfield makes this lake a popular year round vacation spot for southern Californians. The lake is one of the state’s most popular windsurfing areas; reliable afternoon winds, from 35-50 miles an hour, create ideal conditions for intermediate to advanced windsurfers. Enjoy shoreline camping and day use activities at Auxiliary Dam, Old Isabella Road, or South Fork Recreation Area with the purchase of a Southern Sierra Pass or other Interagency Pass. South Fork Wildlife Area, one of the most extensive riparian woodlands remaining in California, provides fishing, hunting, canoeing, and hiking opportunities; no developed recreation facilities are located here. When operating on the lake, every boat, personal watercraft, and sailboard must display a permit from Kern County. These permits may be obtained at any lake marina or at various locations throughout the Kern River Valley. Be sure to check for required safety equipment.

Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently designing a dam safety modification project to address seismic, hydrologic (potential overtopping during an extreme flood event) and seepage issues at the dams.

Until the dam is repaired, the Corps has put in place several interim risk reduction measures, such as increased surveillance and monitoring; stockpiling of emergency materials; warning sirens in the town of Lake Isabella; installation of additional instrumentation for monitoring; and continued public outreach with Kern County and the local public. One additional measure includes an operating restriction, limiting the pool elevation for safety purposes. However, due to lower than average rainfall and snowmelt, the reservoir has only come close to its restricted level once since its implementation.  The current low water levels (summer 2013) are not related to the operating restriction. See historic water levels here:

In 2012, the Corps unveiled to the public its plan for retrofitting the dam and reducing the risk to the public, which includes raising both dams up to 16 feet to prevent overtopping during extreme flood events; filtering and drainage systems to safely control seepage; lining and treatment of existing spillway; and construction of an emergency spillway. The Corps is now in the Pre-Construction Engineering and Design phase of the project. Physical construction is scheduled to begin in 2017. More information can be found here:

At a Glance

Current Conditions: For Kern River Ranger District recreation information, please call 760-376-3781.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Lake and Pond Fishing

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities



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