Campgrounds at Buena Vista Lake in Bakersfield, California

by Robert Kay

Set in the southern San Joaquin Valley, Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area lies on what once was the northern shoreline of Buena Vista Lake. The old lake, fed by the Kern River according to the amount of spring runoff from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, measured up to 150 square miles before drying up in the 1950s. Today, the dark soil in much of the former lake bed serves as a rich agricultural base for farmers. But Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area continues the region's heritage as a spot for fishing, boating and other water sports. If you'd like to stay overnight, the recreation area has a 112-site campground.

Campground Characteristics

Most of Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area's campsites sit on a horseshoe-shaped piece of land that juts out from the middle of Lake Webb's northern shoreline near the park entrance. The recreation area, about 22 miles southwest of Bakersfield, consists of 998-acre Lake Webb and the much smaller Lake Owens, a pair of artificial lakes built by Kern County and filled with water from the California Aqueduct in the early 1970s. Many of the campsites have water views and shade trees, and 90 of them provide full hookups for RV campers. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring. Other campground amenities include a camp store, restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, RV dump station and boat ramp.

Rules and Reservations

Campsites at Buena Vista may be reserved online at the Kern County Parks website or by phone. Reservations must be made at least two days before arrival and are available up to one year in advance. Campers can stay up to 14 nights in a 30-day period and can reserve up to two sites. Each campsite has a maximum of two RVs and 15 people. The pet-friendly campground allows two pets per campsite with an additional nominal fee. Pets must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet.

Things to Do

Campers have plenty of choices to occupy their time while at Buena Vista. A designated 125-acre jet ski area lies adjacent to the campground, with Lake Webb's other 873 acres used for boating and fishing. At 86 acres, Lake Owens is reserved for fishing, sailing and boats that travel 5 mph or less. Anglers can drop their lines in search of species such as rainbow trout, bluegill, crappie, catfish, largemouth bass and stripers. Fishing typically is best during the early morning and late evenings. Other park amenities include several playgrounds, picnic areas, concessions and bike paths.

Nearby Attractions

During your trip to Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area, you might want to visit several other attractions within a short drive. Test your shooting skills at the Kern County Gun Club, less than 2 miles west of the recreation area. The club is open to the public and has trap and skeet fields, a 20-station sporting clays facility and youth instructional programs. Catch a weekend car race at Kern County Raceway Park, a 5,000-seat half-mile paved oval that is about 4 miles north of the recreation area and home to several NASCAR-sponsored series. Or make the 14-mile drive to Tule Elk State Natural Reserve to glimpse a protected herd of the namesake elk. The reserve has twice-monthly, ranger-led auto safaris and also includes a picnic area that's a prime spot for bird-watching.

About the Author

Robert Kay has written travel articles since 2002 and has more than 20 years of experience at three daily newspapers and a national magazine. His work has appeared in "Golfweek," "The New York Times" and various AAA publications. Now based in Florida, he holds a journalism degree from the University of South Carolina.