Entrance to R-Ranch in the Sequoias -- Parker Bluffs (Dome) in the background

            — Photographed in 2004


Johnsondale is located in the beautiful Sequoia National Forest 26 miles north of Kernville, just above the Johnsondale Bridge where South Creek joins the north fork of the Kern River. South Creek flows east through the R-Ranch and then turns south where it flows into the Kern River.

map From the east, the drive to the Ranch via Highway 178 west of Ridgecrest is a beautiful, scenic route through a magnificent Joshua Tree area, crossing Walker Pass and continuing into the Kern River Valley through Weldon. The Sierra Way turnoff to the north follows the Kern River, North Fork, through Kernville up to the R-Ranch. Entering Tulare County just north of Kernville, Sierra Way becomes Mountain Road 99 (Mtn99).

From the west, Highway 178 from Bakersfield follows the Lower Kern River into the town of Lake Isabella, where Highway 155 takes you north through Wofford Heights into Kernville.

Another beautiful scenic route is from the south via the Caliente-Bodfish Road from Highway 58 through the Tehachapi mountains, the towns of Caliente, Havilah, and Bodfish, finally connecting to Highways 178 and 155 in Lake Isabella.

Originally a sawmill, the R-Ranch is now a wonderful resort and vacation community open year-round, reserved for use by the owners.

image Johnsondale Sawmill
photo taken from
"A Short History of Johnsondale"

Johnsondale began as a private sawmill company town in 1935, named after the chief planner, Walter S. Johnson. Mill operations began 3 years later.

In 1979, after 41 years of continuous operation, the mill shut down. After other attempts to create a resort town failed, Great Western Ranches, a Nevada City, California company, purchased Johnsondale in 1984. When "R-Ranch in the Sequoias" opened in 1989, it became the fourth "R-Ranch" developed by that company. The "Short History of Johnsondale" can be read at the R-Ranch web site:

Short History of Johnsondale


The "owners" of R-Ranch do not own "time shares" in the usual sense. Instead, "by subdividing ownership rather than land, owners enjoy the entire ranch whenever they wish and as often as they wish, without the constraints of timesharing."

Complete information about the R-Ranch and ownership is available at its website:

The R-Ranch at Johnsondale is a photographer's paradise, offering mountain and river terrain of exquisite beauty.

image There are three creeks that cross the Ranch: Parker Meadow Creek, South Creek, and a seasonal creek with no name that comes in from the north and empties into Parker Meadow Creek. A pipeline from a dam high up on Parker Meadow Creek empties into a canal which feeds the lake. The map to the right shows the creeks, the lake, and the cabins on the Ranch.

When hiking in rugged terrain it's generally advisable to be with another person. This presents a problem if the other person doesn't want to stay in one place for a period of time when you come upon an area of photographic interest. Fortunately, my photographer-friends and I are of a like mind, and often we spend as much as an hour in one area, enjoying with great respect the beauty of nature.

In the case of the lake on the Ranch, we often go nearly every morning and evening to see the changes in the scenes during different lighting conditions. Even in the passing of just a few minutes, a scene can dramatically change. This is especially true during the 30 minutes or so before dusk.

We also explore the beautiful rock formations in the creeks, rivers and ponds on the Ranch, and in the majestic North Fork of the Kern River a few miles south of the Ranch. Getting up early to see the sunrise over the mountain peaks is worth the effort.

The sign at the entrance of the Ranch shown at the top of this page was torn down in 2006 due to rotting of the posts. The photograph also shows the Restaurant, which is no longer run under the Shackelford name. A new sign sits near the lake, seen as you approach the Ranch entrance via the Forest Service Road:



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