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Inyokern, California

Inyokern, California

Inyokern is a census-designated place (CDP) in Kern County, California, United States. The population was 984 at the 2000 census. It was a railroad town established along the Southern Pacific railroad Lone Pine Branch (now removed). It is served by Inyokern Airport.


Inyokern is located at (35.647430, -117.813795). It lies in Indian Wells Valley, with the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada rising to the west.

It is on U.S. Route 395, the main north-south artery, connecting the Inland Empire to Reno, Nevada. US 395 also connects Inyokern to Los Angeles via State Route 14 through Palmdale.

State Route 178, the main east-west artery, connects Inyokern to Bakersfield, the county seat, via Lake Isabella in the west, and to Death Valley via Ridgecrest in the east.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 11.1 square miles (28.7 km²), all of it land.


As of the census of 2000, there were 984 people, 418 households, and 270 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 88.9 people per square mile (34.3/km²). There were 519 housing units at an average density of 46.9/sq mi (18.1/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 87.70% White, 0.41% Black or African American, 4.88% Native American, 2.24% Asian, 1.02% from other races, and 3.76% from two or more races. 6.50% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 418 households out of which 25.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.9% were married couples living together, 8.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.4% were non-families. 31.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 24.2% under the age of 18, 6.7% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 30.1% from 45 to 64, and 12.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 104.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.7 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $35,046, and the median income for a family was $41,500. Males had a median income of $50,938 versus $33,889 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $21,707. About 10.5% of families and 20.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.6% of those under age 18 and 4.8% of those age 65 or over.


Inyokern was founded in the mid 19th century as a small agrarian community located in the northernmost corner of the Mojave Desert. The Inyokern Elementary School was founded in 1913, and though the sign might make one think that the original building is still in use, the original building was demolished in the early 1970s. With the onset of World War II the Department of the Navy located its new warfare center in Inyokern. This accounts for the length of the runways and the size of the county airport in the town. The military base was subsequently moved to the east and the city of Ridgecrest was born as a commercial support center for that base.

Today Inyokern serves as a sparsely populated bedroom community for those workers on the military base and in the town of Ridgecrest desiring a more rural lifestyle or those who cannot afford housing in Ridgecrest.

The town infrastructure consists of two churches, a post office, market and gas station, hardware store, welding and blacksmith shop, a county park with living grass and trees, two restaurants, a motel, an autobody shop and several antique shops. Inyokern had a public library and free summer educational programs for children until the passage of Proposition 13 in California, when public services were eviscerated. In the 1990s the building which formerly housed the library was demolished and replaced by a Senior Citizen's Center. Inyokern also has a California Highway Patrol substation and a Caltrans road maintenance center. The town water and sewer system is managed by the Community Services Center. The population of the town peaked in approximately 1988 following a period of expansion on the nearby Naval base, but has dwindled since that time, and many properties were abandoned during the military downsizing of the 1990s. Until the 1990s, the main commercial block of the town along highway 178 was a somewhat picturesque street of older buildings constructed of fitted local rocks and bricks, including a vintage post office, and cafe, 3 bars, and a small Chinese restaurant. This street was sometimes used in filming Hollywood westerns. This block was bulldozed to clear land for a planned truck stop and travel plaza.


Characterized by extreme aridity, Inyokern is situated in a wide valley at the base of the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Rugged mountains more than 10,000 ft. (3000 m) in elevation west of the area create a pronounced rain-shadow effect, resulting in a shrub-steppe habitat zone with annual rainfall of less than . The flora of the valley floor consists primarily of Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentate), White Burr Sage (Ambrosia dumosa), and several varieties of native bunch grasses. The transition zone of the nearby foothills also contain mixtures of Pinion Pine, Joshua tree forests, and concentrated riparian habitat surrounding the small streams descending from the mountain peaks. Wildlife ranges from black bear, mountain lion, and mule deer in the mountain and transition zones to the kangaroo rat and the endangered desert tortoise on the valley floor. A special note on the local wildlife is the local subspecies of rattlesnake, the Mojave rattlesnake (also called the Mojave green rattlesnake). This snake, which is common in the area, produces pit viper venom common to the general species but also produces a neuro-toxin that paralyzes the victim within 15 minutes. Fortunately the subspecies is docile and a fatal bite is rare.

Unique Features

Inyokern is often indicated on world climate maps. This notoriety is unique for a town of its size. Inyokern has the highest insolation of any locale on the North American continent, having over 355 days of sunshine each year. In addition, the town is home to the past and current world champion musical saw players.

The Inyokern Airport is a popular location for car commercials, the grand Sierra Nevada Mountains for the backdrop.

Other indiginous animals that can be found in the valley floor are kit foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and roadrunners.


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