Forks of the Kern

Trip Details

river and sun icon Sierra South Mountain Sports Kern River California

Pre Trip Meeting

7pm the evening before at
Sierra South Mountain Sports Headquarters
11300 Kernville, Rd, Kernville, CA

Trip Meet Time Day Of

day of trip

Trip Departure Time

day of trip

Return Time

the next day

Trip Details

The Wild and Scenic Kern River originates on the slopes of 14,505ft Mt. Whitney. This peak is the lynchpin for collecting the snow that births 80 miles of pristine wilderness whitewater north of Kernville, CA. Simply put, the Forks is one of the best stretches of whitewater in North America.

The day prior to departure, participants and the Trip Leader will meet at Sierra South at 7pm. This is a great way for everyone to get acquainted, discuss the trip, and answer any pertinent questions. The next time we see each other will be the following day at 6:30am, don’t be late! 

Accessing the Forks of the Kern begins with a remarkable two hour drive to Lloyd Meadows on a Forest Service road that penetrates deep into the heart of the Southern Sierra. Giant Sequoias, abundant wildlife, and illuminated Granite faces make this more than the typical shuttle. Lloyd Meadows sits roughly two miles above the launching point for the Forks of the Kern. This well established trail switchbacks its way to the river, offering new perspectives on the impressive landscape you will be immersed in. At this point a mule team has carried a majority of the gear to the river. We ask that you carry your personal items on the trail with you. This will consist of a waterproof bag with shoulder straps, weighing around thirty pounds. Utilize the shady patches along the trail to catch your breath and soak up the scenery. Solid footwear, trekking poles, and lots of water is recommended! 

Arrival at the put in! Drop your pack, rinse off in the river, and eat some well deserved lunch. The Trip Leader will give a final safety briefing, assign people to rafts, and then the true adventure begins. 

Day one is the perfect introduction to the Forks; big vistas, big waves, big smiles, big, continuous, Class IV whitewater. We aim for about eight miles the first day, but that can vary. Camplife involves intense relaxation, side hikes, an option for fishing, gourmet food, and stargazing with zero light pollution! Day two will test everything you learned the previous day. Three Class V rapids anchor the best stretch on the Kern; Vortex, Confusion, and Carson Falls. Countless additional Class IV rapids add to the most exciting day of rafting in California.

Our goal is to be back in Kernville at Sierra South between 5-8pm. The day will be long, tiring, adventurous, and fulfilling.

Pre – Trip Considerations 

Where to Park?
Frandy Campground offers secure parking for 8 dollars a day. Free parking is available along the street, but we cannot assure the safety of your vehicle. The parking area in Frandy is also where the trip meets in the morning, making it an easy place to organize your gear, meet the guide team, and have additional questions answered!

Lodging and Camping
Numerous camping and lodging options exist within the Kern River Valley. 

Food and Beverages
Sierra South has you covered in the food department! Expect abundant and delicious food throughout the two days. Any special diets should be shared prior to the trip to ensure those options. If you have specialty snacks you want in camp, bring them – in moderation of course. Sierra South will provide ample drinking water on the river and at camp. If you would like additional soda or alcohol in camp we can accommodate that, in moderation. Space is limited on the rafts and you will need to carry anything additional to the putin. As per regulations by Sequoia National Forest, glass containers are prohibited. Consumption of alcohol should be done in moderation, after rafting is finished for the day, and only on the beach. Never before, or during rafting. 

Physical Ability
Two full days of rafting on the Forks of the Kern is a thrilling and physically demanding experience. All participants need prior Class IV rafting experience  Paddling, swimming, pulling people into the raft, and walking on uneven terrain are all part of the adventure. Please reach out to us if you have any medical conditions that might affect or prevent you from participating in these activities. We carry a full first aid kit with us on the raft and are happy to bring any medication! 

All participants are required to sign a waiver of liability before joining the trip. This is standard for rafting trips across the world. The Kern River is a dynamic environment that has inherent risks, both known and unknown. Sierra South assumes no responsibility for injuries, death, or loss/damage of clients property while on the river. 

Participation Ages
16 years old is the minimum age for our Forks of the Kern trip. This age minimum is based on our experience and judgement regarding the safety of our younger participants. 

Trip Insurance
Personal Trip insurance can protect you against an unforeseen cancellation on your part that can result in loss of fees. 

On the Water!

Sierra South employs a professional guide team skilled in all things on and off water! The Forks of the Kern is a special trip, meaning we will be assigning our top guides who are intimately familiar with this section. Guides who are ready to anticipate, mitigate, and respond to any challenges that arise along the way. This includes river rescues, First Aid, and CPR.

While the weather on the Forks is typically sunny, the location deep within the Sierra makes it prone to unpredictable storms. Refer to our recommended clothing to prepare for a variety of temperatures so you are warm and happy on the water and in camp!

Gear We Supply
Sierra South provides high-quality river gear for your trip. You will be descending the river in top notch, self bailing Hyside Raft. Guides often elect to use a stern mount oar frame which allows our participants to paddle while giving the guides more maneuverability. We are close to the source of the Kern, so the water is cold. Everyone needs to be wearing a wetsuit to make the trip safe and honestly just more fun. Your river kit will also include a helmet, splash jacket, life jacket, and paddle. A 100L dry bag will be provided for all of your personal gear. 

On the water clothing should include non cotton base layers to wear underneath your wetsuit. Materials like wool or polypropylene give you an extra layer of warmth. Neoprene socks or wool socks to wear underneath shoes works great. These shoes should stay on your feet and be comfortable to walk along the shore. Hats and sunglasses can be worn to keep the sun out of your face, just ensure the sunglasses have a strap that will keep them attached to you. There are a million ways to cool off on the river, but not many ways to warm up so dress appropriately!  In camp expect the temperatures to drop into the 50s-60s during the evening. Thermals, hats, and down jackets are great layers to bring. Most of this gear, like neoprene socks, can be purchased at the Sierra South Mountain Sports retail shop the day before the trip departure.

We will have a photographer positioned at Carson Falls, the culminating Class V rapid of the trip! Photographs will be available for purchase when you return to Sierra South. 

Gratuities are appropriate when participants feel compelled to give them! If the trip and guides met or exceeded your expectations, a 20-25% tip is typical. 

Sierra South operates trips under a permit issued by the United States Forest Service, Sequoia National Forest. Only permitted companies are allowed to operate commercial trips on the Forks of the Kern. 

Your Packing List – 


  • Sleeping bag, pillow
  • Lightweight sleeping pad
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Toiletries
  • Thermal Layers
  • Pants
  • Down jacket
  • Hat 
    • Tent
    • Book 


  • Non cotton layers to be worn underneath a wetsuit
  • Neoprene or wool socks
  • Shoes that will stay on your feet
  • Sunglasses 
  • Hat
  • Sunblock, chapstick
  • Water Bottle 

Leave it Behind!

  • Any and all valuable you can’t afford to lose
  • Firearms, firecrackers, 
  • Pets