BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — As you can imagine, Kern County was named after the Kern River. But how was the Kern River named?

The Kern River was named after a red-haired explorer in his 20s who bore the same last name.

Edward “Ned” Kern, the youngest of three brothers, the others being Richard and Benjamin, from Philadelphia, came across the river on an expedition with John C. Fremont, a man with whom the Brothers Kern would go on to explore much of the Southwest. But California, Fremont’s third expedition, was this group’s first together, along with another explorer Joseph Walker.

Fremont would later run unsuccessfully for president and successfully as the first candidate for the newly formed Republican party for Governor of California.

On $3 per day, Ned Kern, 22, served as the cartographer and documentation artist on the trip, collecting plants and animal specimens along the way and documenting their route each night. Richard Kern was also an artist for the journey and Benjamin Kern was the doctor.

Along the way, Ned Kern’s drawings show the group warring with Native Americans and expansive landscapes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains as they charted their course west. As they passed through the Sierra Nevadas, they dealt with the winter conditions of 1846: poor grass making for little game and meals consisting usually of boiled or roasted horse or mule. Ned Kern also first saw Joshua trees during this time, nicknaming them “Jeremiah.”

“Trees have a grotesque appearance,” Edward Kern wrote in a diary. “It’s irregularly and fantastical-shaped limbs give to it the appearance of an ancient candelabra.”

In 1845, Walker and Ned Kern eventually found the Kern River, leading them to Kern County traveling the Walker Pass, a path which Native Americans showed Walker over a decade prior. Walker Pass would eventually lead thousands to California for the gold rush. Ned Kern mapped the river.

Said River was later named after Kern who allegedly almost drowned in its turbulent waters. Kern’s original campsite is now submerged at the base of Lake Isabella, but a monument for the site was placed on Highway 178 on the east side of the lake which now cuts through Walker Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Kern’s budding career was cut short due to health problems. Kern was epileptic and died at age 40.

Note: Information for this article has also been sourced from: Egan, Ferol. “A Climate for Violence.” Frémont: Explorer for a Restless Nation, edited by Ferol Egan, University of Nevada Press, Reno, NV, 1977, pp. 310–322.