Kern, river, 155 mi (249 km) long, rising in the S Sierra Nevada Mts., E Calif., and flowing south, then southwest to a reservoir in the extreme southern part of the San Joaquin valley. The river has Isabella Dam as its chief facility. Kern River is the southern terminus of the Friant-Kern Canal, constructed between 1945 and 1951 to bring the waters of the San Joaquin River to the region (see Central Valley project); irrigated agriculture (alfalfa, fruit, cotton) and cattle grazing are practiced. U.S. explorer John Frémont named the river in honor of Edward M. Kern, the topographer of his third expedition. Gold was discovered along the river in 1853. The entire river is protected by the National Park Service; the canyon of the upper Kern in Sequoia National Park is noted for its beauty.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.