Bakersfield is the seat of Kern County in southcentral California, on the Kern River at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. It lies along Highway 99 between Visalia and Los Angeles.
European settlement began in 1851 following a gold find in the riverbed. Colonel Thomas Baker laid out the town in 1869; it was named for his alfalfa field. Growth was spurred with the railroad's arrival in 1874 and development of the Kern River farm irrigation system. The city incorporated in 1898 and oil was found nearby in 1899.
Today Bakersfield, population 247,057, is a commercial, manufacturing and distribution hub of an agricultural and petroleum-extraction area. Points of interest include the Kern County Museum, comprising more than 60 recreated or restored early structures; and nearby California Living Museum, featuring a zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden. Country singer Merle Haggard was born here.
Bakersfield is part of the Bakersfield, California metro area.