HAZARD: IMPORTANT NOTE - CLICK HERE! February 1, 2017. High flows are expected on the Upper Kern, Brush Creek and Lower Kern. The increasing flow and high-water levels will increase the amount of debris in the river, and the likelihood of logs, strainers and other hazards. Rapids and eddies can change dramatically. They can become easier or more difficult. New rapids can form. Self rescue can become more difficult with the speed of the current and lack of eddy lines. The location of such hazards may change at any time. Extra care should be taken on or near the river. When in doubt, get out and scout!
This very steep creek should only be attempted by boaters with extensive creeking experience. One quarter mile section drops more than 1400 fpm! There are numerous "runnable" waterfalls in the 8 ft. to 22 ft. range, but two huge 40 to 50 ft. killer falls are found near the end of the run. Following their first descent, Gary and Brandon said that doing the run was like paddling off the "edge of the world."
Kern River Gallery #2 shows Brandon hand-paddling Dry Meadow Creek.
Many boaters carry the section from the pool below the S-turn to where the trail (on river right) is near the creek again, at a rocky area. Below here are a variety of drops, including a vertical slot that some boaters run, but others avoid by sliding down a steep trough. After crossing under the bridge, but before the confluence with the Kern, is a tricky drop that should be scouted.
While this run is about as clean as a steep creek can get, people have broken boats, badly strained their backs, broken elbows and egos on this run; so scout frequently and know what you're doing. If you choose not to run the biggest waterfall, the portage is not a simple walk around. There is an unofficial gage on the bridge at the parking lot take-out that boaters use for a reference. What a particular reading means varies a lot from boater to boater, but basically under 1 is very boney; 2 is low runnable; 5 is high; anything above 5 is very high. At any level things happen fast and good judgement and paddling skills are required.
There are some wild stories about the first descent of this difficult Kern tributary
The South Fork Kern was originally done by Royal Robbins, et. al.
Monache Meadows to Kennedy Meadows Campground
The first five miles of this nearly 20 mile Southern Sierra wilderness run will lull you into thinking this run has no gradient. When you cross under the Pacific Crest Trail bridge at mile five get ready for a change of scenery, over the next four miles the gradient averages about 200 fpm! Bouldery rapids in a creekish streambed continue until you pass under the PCT a second time, about two miles from the takeout.
There are several potential portages on this IV-V run. The most difficult section is the most remote.
Kennedy Meadows to Long Valley
to Long Valley (Rocky Contos)