Rio Bravo Ranch has a history longer than even the most established Kern Country families may remember. In 1861, the Solomon Jewett family founded 160 acres of land on the Kern River‹or Rio Bravo, as the Mexican settlers called it‹and their sheep ranch was one of the very first in the region.
Other families began settling in the adjacent areas within the canyon, and the land began to become consolidated as the separate ranches were bought and sold. Eventually, the 30,000 acre ranch was divided in two, and George W. Nickel bought the lower 16,000 acres.
Today, the Nickel family farms citrus, almonds, and walnuts, and cattle feed on the land¹s dry pastures. Much of the riparian land along the Kern River and Cottonwood creek, however, are untouched, and much will remain that way.
Environmental stewardship is evident by the overall pristine state in which the ranch is maintained. We strive to use environmentally sensitive agricultural practices, such as no till farming and drip irrigation. And while planning is underway for residential development, this will never be the focus of Rio Bravo Ranch. Our commitment to sustaining harmony with nature is our legacy, and we hope it will remain so for generations to come.
In the mid 1700’s, explorer Francisco Garces, led by Indian guides, discovered a shorter route between Sonora, Mexico and Monterey, California. Part of the trail followed Cottonwood Creek Canyon down to an Indian Rancheria near the crossing of the Kern River. The route was already well traveled when Solomon Jewett and his two sons, Solomon Jr. and Philip, built a home near the river crossing, raising sheep in the small valley. The old trail passed through the Jewett’s sheep ranch, where many travelers stopped to visit and rest. The Mexican settlers called the Kern River “Rio Bravo,” so the Jewett property became known as “Rio Bravo Ranch.” Settling on this land in 1861, the Jewett family was among the earliest settlers in Bakersfield, making the ranch one of the oldest in the region.
Other parts of the ranch were eventually homesteaded through efforts of Angus McLeod, Henry Pierce, John Barker, A.J. McLeod, Albert Jasper and Emma Beaudry. (In the 1880’s, Pierce and Barker developed some of the first irrigation ditches that originated from the Kern River.)
Through the early 1900’s, Louis Olcese pieced together the various homesteads and land grants covering the Rio Bravo Ranch. In all, he was able to consolidate over 30,000 acres of land, which he used for working cattle and sheep as well as for grain.