Isabella Dam is an embankment dam located about halfway down the Kern River, between the towns of Kernville and Lake Isabella in Kern County, California. Isabella Dam serves agricultural, hydroelectric, and flood control uses.
In 1948, Congress appropriated funds to build a dam to prevent flooding of Bakersfield. The city had been flooded in 1867 and 1893. In 1950, while the dam was under construction, they experienced flooding measuring 30,000 cubic feet (850 m3) of water per second. The dam was completed in March 1953.
Isabella Dam actually consists of two dams, a "main dam", and an “auxiliary dam”. The main dam is of earthen build, 1,695 feet (517 m) long and 98 feet (30 m) tall, and owned and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Normal release from the main dam is 3,000 cubic feet per second (80 m³/s), maximum historical releases were 7,200 ft³/s (200 m³/s) in 1983.
The auxiliary dam is part of the Borel hydroelectric project. The canal for the Borel project diverts water from 5.5 miles (8.9 km) upstream of Isabella Dam.