Paddling the Kern River
The Kern River area is a whitewater wonderland. The river and its tributaries offer some of the most varied, challenging and aesthetic whitewater boating in the world!
The North Fork features the premier expert wilderness run, The Forks, and over 20 miles of easily accessible, roadside boating. The Lower Kern has dependable summer flows, warm water, and exhilarating rapids. The Kern Below Democrat (Cataracts of the Kern) has awesome class IV, V, and V+ whitewater that even the most experienced boater will find challenging. Like steep creeks? Brush Creek is one of the best and Dry Meadow Creek even steeper, more difficult, and amazing!
The information presented here is not a substitute for your own good judgement. There is a saying, "You never run the same river twice." Very small changes in flow can result in dramatic changes in the way a rapid is run, or even if the rapid can be run. Logs, strainers and other hazards can appear overnight. Rapids can be changed by floods, landslides and other geologic processes. Even the simple shift in position of one boulder can dramatically affect the safety of a rapid. It's a good idea to check with local boaters prior to doing a run, and "If in doubt, scout. If still in doubt, portage."
Any river can be a dangerous place. The best way to learn about rafting or kayaking is through a professional outfitter. We offer many different kinds of raft trips and kayaking lessons, so you can maximize your enjoyment of the sport and all that it has to offer.
Always, always wear a proper lifejacket when on, or near, the river!
Guidebooks & Maps
Additional Kern River Info
Camping and Lodging
Kern River Festival
A good source for information regarding Kern area businesses, events, and activities is the Kernville Chamber of Commerce. You can contact them at:
A river use permit is now required year round on nearly all sections of the river. A permit is required on the Forks during the period May 15 to September 15. According to the Forest Service, a permit is not required for the section of the river from the KR3 Powerplant to Kernville. This section includes the Powerhouse Run and The Park.
With the exception of the Forks run, it's easy to get a permit. Just bring a picture ID to one of the local ranger stations at Kernville or Lake Isabella.
All runs that require permits, require that a daily manifest form be filled out and placed in a manifest box. These are located at the various Forest Service put-in's along the river.
For more information contact:
Store: 760-376-3745 Mail Order: 800-376-7303 Reservations: 800-457-2082
Copyright © 1996-2017 Sierra South, Inc. All Rights Reserved.