Last year, a historic settlement with ties to the Gold Rush and golden-era Hollywood emerged from the bottom of a then-dry California lake. Now, the site is submerged underwater once again, according to SF Gate.
The remains of Whiskey Flat, located roughly 100 miles north of Los Angeles, are only visible during extreme drought conditions. Lake Isabella has periodically filled and emptied in recent decades, as the Sierra Nevada foothills receive varying levels of rainfall. In September 2022, the lake’s water levels dropped to a notable 8 percent capacity, revealing the foundations of the ghost town, according to prior reporting by SF Gate.
While most of the town was destroyed by the government in the late 1940s to make way for the dam that created Lake Isabella, the structural foundations of its schoolhouse, general store, jail, and Methodist church remain visible when water levels are low enough. The town, now memorialized by a local museum and historical society, was first founded by Adam Hamilton in late 1860 following Prospector Lovely Rogers’ discovery of the area’s abundance of gold, according to the Los Angeles Times. After setting up camp, it’s believed that Hamilton created a makeshift bar out of two whiskey barrels and a flat board laid across them. He dubbed the to-be saloon Whiskey Flat, and the area soon became a populous town known for its gold mines and dangerous reputation typical of the Wild West.
The settlement’s bloody history caused it to be renamed to Kernville in 1864. The Kern River Valley Historical Society notes that residents felt “it was no longer fitting to have the name associated with ‘demon rum,’ as the ladies of the town called it.”
A century later, the then-deserted town served as the setting for western films such as “Stagecoach” and “Treasure of Sierra Nevada.” In the 1940s, though, the town’s popularity waned. The nearby Big Blue mine closed in 1942 as movie sets were removed, and the U.S. government condemned the town in the later half of the decade.
Only time will tell when Whiskey Flat might emerge again.