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10 Best Rapids on the Kern River

10.White Maidens

Gusto, Lower Kern

Class IV

This rapid changes a great deal as the water goes up and down. Lucky for us, its fun and challenging characteristics never diminish. It is long, powerful, technical, extremely wet, and not a bad place to swim if you do fall out!

 

9. The Wall 

Cables, Upper Kern

Class IV

Guests choosing a full, or half day Upper Kern Rafting trip may encounter the Wall as the first serious rapid. The rapid accelerates quickly into a wall (hence the name) and makes a sharpe left hand turn. After making the power move to avoid the wall, dig those paddles in to smash two consecutive waves that will drench the boat and baptize you to rafting on the Kern River. 

8. Ewings 

Lickety, Upper Kern

Class III

You can be assured that if one of the major attractions in Kernville is to have a drink at Ewings Restaurant and watch rafts navigate this rapid, it has to be a pretty great rapid! At certain flows the wave at Ewings rapid is one of the best on the river. Family friendly and unforgettable, we love Ewings. 

7. The Flume

Thunder Run, Upper Kern

Class V

This rapid makes our list based on its unique, roller coaster-like characteristics. After several tight maneuvers above the rapid your eyes will naturally be drawn towards the definition of a horizon line; a view of the river dropping off into the unknown. As you approach the edge you will need to trust your guide, we know the line! Paddle hard and enjoy that momentary weightless feeling as your raft enters the steepest rapid on the Upper Kern!

 

6. Black Bottom Falls

Chamise Gorge, Upper Kern Class IV

Chamise is one of the most breath taking sections on the Upper Kern River. When the water levels are right, both full day Upper Kern Class IV and Class V trips will experience these unique rapids. Black Bottom is simply the best of Chamise. A technical and powerful series of moves with a massive hydraulic at the bottom. Paddle hard, embrace the challenge, and keep a good hold on the raft.

Sierra South Class V Rafting Kern River

5. Sock-’em Dog

Thunder Run, Upper Kern

Class V

If this class V rapid isn’t the most difficult rapid on the Thunder Run, then it’s a close second. Massive offset holes in the center of the river provide a narrow window for a raft to navigate through. Sock-’em Dog combines the best aspects of the Upper Kern; a mix of steep technical rafting and big water power. I smile just thinking about this gem.

 

4. Powerhouse

Lickety, Upper Kern

Class III

There is no way we could leave Powerhouse Rapid off our Top Ten list. The intense smiles we see at the bottom of this quarter mile class III rapid is proof enough. Thousands of families have come rafting with us on the Lickety Section of the Upper Kern and this rapid, along with Ewings, gives people exactly what they want; speed, splashes, and plenty of chances to paddle hard!

Lower Kern River Big Five Sierra South

3. Hari-kari

Big Five – Lower Kern

Class IV

Regardless of the flow, this Lower Kern Big Five rapid is always on point. In classic drop-pool style, your raft goes from zero to breakneck speed in a matter of moments. Add a hairpin turn, and two massive waves at the bottom to make one of the best rapids on the Kern.

Lower Kern River Big 5 Rafting

 

2. Carson Falls

Forks of the Kern, Upper Kern

Class V

There are 100+ rapids on the Forks of the Kern. Not an easy task to choose our favorite and if you join us on the Forks of the Kern you can experience them all! For this list, we will go with the Climactic Carson Falls. This is the steepest rapid on the section and will put to the test all the skill and teamwork you’ve developed in the previous 17 miles. There is a not a better way to finish an epic two day wilderness trip through the High Sierra.

1. Fender Bender 

Thunder Run, Upper Kern

Class V

The climax of the Upper Kern Class V Thunder Run is also our choice for the top rapid on the Kern River! A challenging entrance leads your raft into a steep, technical, thrilling descent of one of the hardest rapids on the river. 

 

Lower Kern Full Day Class IV

Class III-IV. Ages 12 & up

The Lower Kern Full Day Class IV river trip is an exhilarating white water adventure which winds down narrow, rocky canyons, twists around giant boulders and charges through tight gorges. 

Lower Kern Full Day Class IV

The Lower Kern Full Day Class IV river trip is an exhilarating white water adventure which winds down narrow, rocky canyons, twists around giant boulders and charges through tight gorges. 

  • Popular Trip!

Lickety Blaster Class II-III

Class II-III | Ages 6 & up

**Due to low-water conditions we are unable to book this trip right now. Try our Lower Kern Class II-III half day or Lower Kern Class II-III full day trips, or check back with us in the 2021 season.** Looking for a longer Kern River whitewater rafting trip that won't swamp your wallet? Try our super-popular, 2-3 hour Lickety Blaster.

Lickety Blaster Class II-III

**Due to low-water conditions we are unable to book this trip right now. Try our Lower Kern Class II-III half day or Lower Kern Class II-III full day trips, or check back with us in the 2021 season.** Looking for a longer Kern River whitewater rafting trip that won't swamp your wallet? Try our super-popular, 2-3 hour Lickety Blaster.

Upper Kern Full Day Class V

Class IV-V | Ages 16 & up

The Upper Kern Full Day Class V offers intrepid river runners a full day of Class IV-V whitewater rafting, our most challenging trip.

Upper Kern Full Day Class V

The Upper Kern Full Day Class V offers intrepid river runners a full day of Class IV-V whitewater rafting, our most challenging trip.

Sierra South
Mountain Sports
760-376-3745

11300 Kernville Road
Kernville, California 93238

Sierra South operates under permits issued by: Sequoia National Forest, Klamath National Forest, and the National Park Service/Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Sierra South is an equal opportunity recreation service provider.

Hours of Operation

Store:

Open 8 am-6 pm Monday-Sunday

Reservations:

 Open 9 am-5 pm Monday-Friday

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