Drought reveals Wild West ghost town in California


Where usually there’s water, there are now exposed foundations from a bygone era. 

At California’s Lake Isabella, a dry spell has caused the manmade lake to divulge what lies beneath: the long-sunken town of Whiskey Flat. 

After World War II, in the early 1950s, the US government damned the area and built a reservoir, blowing up most of the abandoned town and leaving only the exploded foundations of its general store, jail and Methodist church there — structures that now visibly poke up from the near-empty lake’s bottom, SFGate reported

“I don’t think you’re going to find any dead bodies like Lake Mead, but there certainly are old ghosts around those buildings,” Chuck Barbee, a local resident and cinematographer working on a documentary about Whiskey Flat and the larger Kern River Valley area, told the publication. “There are still stories of an untold Old West here.” 

While Lake Isabella’s current 8% capacity water levels have caused “so much hand-wringing,” some see the 20-foot drop in water as an opportunity, Kern River Valley building contractor and draftsman Michael Downey tells the news outlet Bakersfield.com. “We have the ability to look with more clarity,” he said of the ephemerally exposed old foundations. “We can stand on it and touch it.”

The drowned town’s lore is so notorious that, while usually not physically accessible, its stories have never really vanished from culture. The lawless, often murderous home of many colorful characters is credited with helping inspire Clint Eastwood flicks, including “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly,” and is arguably the origin of the quick draw archetype, according to SFGate. Indeed, Whiskey Flat was “a town of miners, outlaws, secessionists and hard-working ranchers who had quick tempers, fast guns and their own code of swift justice,” one 2004 Los Angeles Times recollection summarized. 

lake isabella drought whiskey flat
Can-Can girls, photographed for a series on the underwater town.
Corbis via Getty Images
lake isabella drought whiskey flat
A stage coach in the long-sunken town of Whiskey Flat.
Corbis via Getty Images
lake isabella drought whiskey flat
Clint Eastwood in 1966’s “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”
Courtesy Everett Collection
lake isabella drought whiskey flat
In an aerial view, the foundation of a building that was once submerged is seen on June 14, 2021 during a previous drought.
Getty Images
lake isabella drought whiskey flat
In an aerial view, an expanding shoreline is seen on June 14, 2021 near Lake Isabella, California. Authorities are bracing for a predicted driest year on record for the Kern River, carrying only about a quarter of its average Sierra snowmelt water to Lake Isabella.
Getty Images
lake isabella drought whiskey flat
Members of the Gonzalez family soak in the evening sun and play in the cold Kern River at Keyesville Camp near Lake Isabella, Calif., on July 3, 2017.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

In addition to inspiring countless Western-themed flicks, Whiskey Flat, which was later renamed Kernville, was also the set for many films thanks to Movie Street, a block of flat front frontier-style buildings where countless westerns were shot, wrote SFGate. 

Though the waterlogged town is far less lively than it was in its heyday, whenever there’s a drought — as there is now — it certainly offers concrete evidence that Whiskey Flat may be mostly gone, but is far from forgotten. 



Source link