Why Rafting the Forks of the Kern Should Be Your Next Adventure

Raft icon Sierra South Mountain Sports Kern River California

Forks of the Kern Rafting

If you are like our staff at Sierra South then you are always dreaming of or planning your next big adventure. Many of us look to all reaches of the globe for new rivers to raft or kayak, mountains to climb, or new beautiful waves to surf. We are all seekers of the vast variety of adventures this planet has to offer. In 2020 our worldwide plans have been halted leaving us to search for new experiences nearby. Lucky for us Kernville, California is as good as it gets for outdoor adventure and we want to share the best of the best with you. 

Have you ever heard of the Forks of the Kern? It is a whitewater paradise in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains and known for being one of the best rafting sections in the world. 18 miles of pristine Class IV-V whitewater with nearly 100 rapids in total. Not only are the rapids big, technical, and fun you will also be nestled in a beautiful canyon with views unrivaled to any other rafting in California. 

rafters enjoying the rapids through boulders Sierra South Mountain Sports Kern River California
Carson Falls, Forks of the Kern

What makes the Forks of the Kern so special?

If you ask anyone who has rafted the Forks this question you are likely to hear a very common answer. “The Forks is one of those places that makes you appreciate the moment and makes you feel alive.” As you step off the bus ride from Kernville to Lloyd Meadow Road you are immediately taken in by the fresh alpine air and smell of pine trees. Perched high above the river, you will begin the 2-mile walk down to the put in. Once you take off down that trail it is a right of passage. There is no turning back, and only one way out, Down the river. As you approach the put-in and see the river for the first time you are fully immersed in nature. No one around other than our team and although quiet you can feel the excitement in the air. Once we push off the shore and begin our journey downstream we become a team. Each raft individually working on paddling together, as well as becoming a team of 3 other rafts on the water. As we navigate down the river the intensity starts to pick up. The first Class V rapid is Lower Freeman, the perfect first big rapid to get you amped up for what is downstream. Continuing downstream we hit many more incredible rapids including Vortex and The Gauntlet all while taking in views of the Needles and other prominent peaks in the area. The last 4 miles of the Forks is the most concentrated section of hard rapids. By this point, we have already tackled many Class IV and V rapids and are ready for the past paced final stretch. The final rapids of the Forks consist of 4 Mile, The Geologies, and climaxes with Confusion and Carson Falls. Once below Carson Falls, you look back upstream and an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment rushes through your body as high fives and hugs are passed around. 

calm waters and serene view while rafting on the Forks of the Kern Sierra South Mountain Sports Kern River California
View of the Needles

How do I know I am ready for the Forks of the Kern? 

Rafting the Forks of the Kern is not for the faint of heart and also not for someone who isn’t in good physical shape. You must have prior Class IV rafting experience and be comfortable swimming in the river. An ideal person to do the Forks is someone eager for adventure, loves being in the wilderness, and is a team player. 

What is the best time of year for this trip?

Each year is different depending on the winter’s snowpack. The Forks of the Kern is a 100% free-flowing river that comes from the Lower 48’s tallest peak Mt. Whitney. We are looking for flows in the 750-4000cfs range to raft the Forks. On a low snowpack year, we will begin trips at the end of April and run through early to mid-June. In larger snowpack years we will offer trips from June to August. 

Should I do a One Day or Two Day Forks Trip?

In 2021 Sierra South will be the first company in the history of Kern River rafting to offer a One Day Forks of the Kern rafting trip. We are focusing our efforts on one-day trips to provide the best action-packed rafting adventure in California. This trip is fast-paced and priced to give people a memorable day. The traditional two-day trip will still be offered for those looking for a multi-day rafting experience in the backcountry.