In 2005, Audubon’s Kern River Preserve doubled in size with the addition of the Sprague Ranch property which added 1,640 acres of rare cottonwood willow forest and upland desert scrub habitat to the Preserve. As part of that acquisition, Audubon took ownership of a 1930s ranch house was used by the Sprague family as their desert retreat.
Over the last 13 years, it became at different times a home for Preserve staff, temporary field station and lodging for researchers from around the world studying Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Western Flycatcher, and a gathering place for the conservation community and Kern River Preserve supporters.
Sadly, on Tuesday night, the long story of the Sprague Ranch home ended with a house fire that destroyed the structure but luckily harmed no people or surrounding equipment or buildings. We are grateful for the quick and professional response from the Kern County Fire Department which contained the fire to the main building.
“While we have lost a unique and memory filled part of the Preserve, the mission and work of Audubon and the Preserve go on.” said Reed Tollefson, Kern River Preserve Manager.
For those lucky enough to have watched a sunset from the Sprague Ranch porch, we hope you carry that memory forward and know that while the Ranch house is no longer there – the former Sprague family ranch which has been providing vital habitat to birds and other wildlife for more than a decade will continue to be managed for those resources.