Taft is situated between three of the most productive and longest producing oil fields in California and the United States. Oil production has been on-going in the area for over a hundred years. Since the 1960s steam injection has been used to squeeze more of the thick local crude from the rock formations below. As result of the longevity of production and the added complexity of steam injection- the fields around Taft have an amazing amount of infrastructure and piping. The dry grassy hills around Taft are a hellscape, crisscrossed by oil and steam pipes and power lines(both active and abandoned). Pump jacks are everywhere as are large steam plants and storage/maintenance facilities for the fields. Aside from oil production a small amount of cattle ranching is the only other human activity in the area. Because the fields are situated in the Southern end of the San Joaquin valley, where pollution from the Northern half of California frequently gets trapped, the air around Taft is often thick with smog. It is a unique landscape.
It's slightly easier to access the producing fields around Taft than those in other areas such as Bakersfield. Taft also has an oil museum- The West Kern Oil Museum. 25 Hill Road makes a nice scenic loop through the fields in the hills west above Taft. Midoil and Mocal roads South of Taft go directly through the fields and Reward road as it travels up the hills away from Mckittrick has some spectacular views. Because of the intensity, exclusivity and extent of the oil industry development, the landscape around Taft is unlike anything I've ever seen. It isn't exactly pleasant to look at but it's amazing and helps give the gasoline we put in our cars some context. The Carrizo Plain National Monument is a unique and beautiful grassland wilderness about 30 miles west of the oil fields.
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