For thousands of years, California's Central Valley has provided habitat for millions of waterfowl, shorebirds and other wetland dependent species. The southern portion of the Central Valley, known as the San Joaquin Valley, once contained numerous lakes and marshes comprising over 800,000 acres of natural wetlands, the largest freshwater marsh in the western United States.
Kern NWR is managed as part of the Kern National Wildlife Refuge Complex. A National Wildlife Refuge Complex is an administrative grouping of two or more refuges, wildlife management areas or other refuge conservation areas that are primarily managed from a central office location. Refuges are grouped into a complexbecause they occur in a similar ecological region, such as a watershed or specific habitat type, and have a related purpose and management needs. Typically, a project leader or complex manager oversees the general management of all refuges within the complex and refuge managers are responsible for operations at specific refuges. Supporting staff, composed of administrative, law enforcement, refuge manager, biological, fire, visitor services, and maintenance professionals, are centrally located and support all refuges within the complex.
Other refuges in the Kern NWR Complex include the Pixley National Wildlife Refuge and the Tulare Wildlife Management Area. The refuge complex headquarters is located at 10811 Corcoran Road, Delano, California 93215.
Kern National Wildlife Refuge was established on November 18, 1960 and consists of 11,249-acres of natural desert uplands, a relictcorridor, and developed marsh. The visitor center and office complex opened in late 1999. The refuge headquarters is at the junction of Garces Highway and Corcoran Road. Situated on the southern margin of what was once the largest freshwater wetland complex in the western United States, Kern Refuge provides optimum wintering habitat for migratory birds with an emphasis on waterfowl and water birds.