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Lake Isabella is a town of about 3000 people in Kern County. It sits just east of Bakersfield, California in the Kern River Valley. It is convenient to visit both Kernville and Bodfish; information about our visits are in previous posts.
Lake Isabella Economics
Due to its low cost of living, we met a lot of people who transplanted themselves from other, more expensive areas of California to the Lake Isabella area. We met people from Santa Cruz, Los Angeles and Oakland. With a cost of living about 7% less than the national average and a median home price of about $125,000, it makes sense to give a small town like Lake Isabella a try.
Services and amenities
I liked it here, even though the town itself is not much to look at. Pretty much the entire town runs along Lake Isabella Boulevard. It has a few clinics, one of which we visited for regular checkups and blood draws since it was about that time. I think they frequently have visitors from all over, so the two offices I called seemed to take just about every insurance you can think of.
There are two grocery stores, both within walking distance from the Happy Haven RV Park where we stayed. The town library is right next door to the park, and I happily checked out many books during our month-long stay.
There is also a Rite-Aid, a few restaurants and a thrift store in town. They even have a small community college extension. There is a bus system that we mentioned in the post about Kernville that takes you to surrounding towns and even as far as Bakersfield (a 35-mile trip).
As with our visit to Kernville, we found everyone to be extremely friendly. Great customer service in every store we visited. The thrift store, whose proceeds support the local hospital system, was clean and organized. We stopped by to donate some clothing during yet another of our never-ending purges.
We stayed here from the day after Thanksgiving and until Christmas eve, so it was definitely the off-season. I understand it becomes quite busy during the summer with the lake activities.
Due to the time of year and 2500-foot elevation, we did see some snowfall on the surrounding mountains, and we even had some snow showers in the town itself. It was pretty neat because neither one of us has been around snow in years. All our RV winter preparedness was quite helpful.
This area is also part of the desert. It gets quite hot in the summer, which would be perfect lake weather.
Speaking of the lake. The town is Lake Isabella, but the body of water is Isabella Lake. And as seems to happen sometimes, the lake originally ran through old Kernville but they created a dam in 1953 and flooded that town to create a reservoir. Both Kernville and Lake Isabella were relocated. Many of the original buildings were lost underwater, but luckily some were saved and ended up at the ghost town in Bodfish.
Due to California’s drought conditions for the past several years, the waters have receded quite a bit, and there are signs at each marina cautioning boaters that underwater structures may damage their boats. The dam also requires repairs, so the water level is kept low intentionally so work can be performed.
However, we timed our departure because a huge storm with more snow was coming through. Later on in the month the area had heavy rains and flash flood warnings. I don’t know how this affected the water level, but I’m glad we left before it hit!
Here’s a short video with some footage and pictures I took.