Bakersfield is the third largest city in the San Joaquin Valley, a large valley covering much of central California. The southern tip of the Sierra Nevada mountains lie eastward from Bakersfield and the southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley lies not far to the south. The Kern River flows out of the mountains through a deep and scenic gorge, and enters the valley at the Bakersfield city limit.
The San Joaquin Valley is one of the rich agricultural region of the Uinted States and during the "dust bowl" years many workers left the Great Plains and came to Bakersfield to work in the farms. Gold was discovered in Kern Canyon in 1851, leading to the first settlements in the area. Oil was discovered in 1865. In 1869, Colonel Baker, an early settler, surveyed the townsite which was then named after him.
Bakersfield's population in 2000 was 247,057, and it is estimated to be at 307,471 currently (2005), being one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. California Highway 99, a freeway, passes north and south through the city, and California Highway 58, crosses it east to west, which is also a freeway. California Highway 178 climbs the Kern River Canyon, leading to Indian Wells Valley on the other side of the Sierra Nevadas. Many other roads crisscross the surrounding valley, and urbanization has followed many of them into the growing suburbs.
The downtown area lies at 400 feet in elevation, and the city makes a gradual climb to the east. Although the city limit reaches to the edge of the mountains, quite a bit of farmland still remains in this hilly area.
For More Information:
See Wikipedia's Bakersfield article.