Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Legend of The School Bus In The Riverbed - Cane Brake, California

Tangled School Bus - Cane Brake, California
There's a popular tourist destination in central California at the south end of the Sierra Nevada mountains called Lake Isabella. People flock to the lake and the Kern River during the hot summer months. In the winter there is skiing on one of the surrounding mountain peaks.

In Lake Isabella there's a local legend about an old school bus. On a wet winter day many years ago, while driving on what is now California Highway 178 in the rural areas east of the lake, a bus got stranded in flood waters.

The legend has been passed around by word-of-mouth. In one widely told version the bus was full of children. It got caught in the flood waters from the creek that parallels the highway. The water was rising and the bus was stuck. The heroic efforts of the driver and some Good Samaritans saved most of the children. But then the rushing water swept the bus away, eventually placing it in a thicket, half buried in mud. A few of the children never made it out. The hero bus driver died, too.
School Bus - Canebrake, California
That and similar versions of the legend cannot be verified. I couldn't even find the date that this tragic event happened. I found no references in the local newspaper. There was an epic flood in 1966, and that's the most likely year that this event occurred.

The most likely story--and one that I've heard passed around as the "true story"--is that the bus driver lived in a rural area near Cane Brake, east of Lake Isabella. At night and on the weekends the driver kept the bus on his property. It was a weekend when the flood waters came and the bus was completely empty. It was swept away from the property where it sat, and came to rest in a thicket not all that far from where it had been parked.

It's difficult to know which version of the story is true, especially when a couple of long-time locals claim to have been rescued from that bus. Either way, it is fascinating to discover the old bus in the thicket along California Highway 178 near Cane Brake. During the winter months when the leaves are gone from the trees, and if you know where to look, you can see it from the highway.
Green And Red - Cane Brake, California
There's a small trail that leads down through the trees to the rusty yellow bus. Only half of it is visible, the rest is buried in the dirt. It is a testament to the power of a storm--that enough raindrops can turn a tiny creek into a raging river and move a large object from one place to another.

If you follow the trail just a little further--past the creek and around a corner--there's an old house that's long been abandoned. It's probably been empty as long as the school bus has been stuck in the thicket. The same flood can account for it's desertion.

The house is old, perhaps 100 years old. The roof is gone. Some of the walls are gone. Not a lot remains. There's an old wood ladder that climbs up to what may have been an attic. The house was fairly small (especially by today's standards), but it had electricity and plumbing.
Green Lampshade - Cane Brake, California
The whole area is beautiful. The air is fresh. The mountain views are stunning. The landscape is lush. It's easy to see why someone settled here. This was a nice place to have a home.

But the hidden danger was nature. The little creek had a dark side. On a stormy day in 1966 the waters rose. It placed a bus where it didn't belong and forced the residents of the nearby house to move someplace else.

I captured all of these photographs several years ago. On a whim myself and some of my family went on an adventure to see if we could find the bus. The abandoned house was a bonus. It was one of my first adventures in the urban exploration genre (well before I even knew what that meant). The bottom three photographs were published in a book about Kern County, California.
Ladder & Wall - Cane Brake, California

9 comments:

  1. Good to see that not all amusement is at big parks and there is fun out there if we look

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    1. There is certainly a lot of fun to be found if we wonder through the world around us. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. As a local photographer in Lake Isabella, I visit the bus often for photos, and to do photo shoots. I never get tired of seeing it!

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    1. Thank you for commenting, Shanna! It's an interesting picture location for sure.

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  3. I was 6 when the flood happen my father volenteried in Kernville on making repairs, the 2nd story is right but the 1st one is more like I told my children.

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    1. That's pretty funny, Roberto! The first story is certainly more colorful.

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  4. I was 6 when the flood happen my father volenteried in Kernville on making repairs, the 2nd story is right but the 1st one is more like I told my children.

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  5. Going up or coming down, watch out for step #5!

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    1. Not sure what this means, but thanks for the advice!

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