Kern, California, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-V (for normal flows)|
|No. Kern Below Fairview Dam|
|dream-682||500 - 3000 cfs||III-V||00h51m||1928 cfs (running)|
|No. Kern Above Fairview Dam|
|dream-681||500 - 2500 cfs||III-V||00h51m||2502 cfs (too high)|
The excellent variety of whitewater below Johnsondale bridge provides several different options for boaters. Some of it easily rivals the Forks in quality and difficulty, but with more convenient access. The Forks beats this segment for scenery but not by a lot, and when you are staring at the next horizon line, who needs scenery! The river is commonly considered as several distinct sections, especially since Fairview dam forces a portage and then diverts up to 600 cfs of the flow from the river.
The Johnsondale Bridge put-in has a large parking area with developed river access on the west side (river right) of the bridge. It is located about about 25 minutes north of Kernville and about one hour and 40 minutes from Bakersfield. If coming from the north it is faster to turn off of highway 99 at Earlimart to go through Ducor and California Hot Springs. Allow about one hour and 20 minutes from Earlimart. Sometimes people drive through Springville and up through the Tule River Canyon, but this is a slow drive due to the narrow, windy road. Allow an hour and a half just from Springville, not counting stops for gawking at the Tule canyon.
The Powerhouse take-out is just north of Kernville on river left on the downstream side of the Southern California Edison KR3 Powerhouse. Take Sierra Way (Hwy 521) north out of town to reach the take-out.
Mountain Highway 99 serves as the shuttle route along river left as it parallels the entire run. Along the way there are alternate access points depending on flows and the level of difficulty you are seeking. Intermediate access points include Fairview Dam (take-out above and put-in below), Calkins Flat, above Salmon Falls, Ant Canyon Primitive Area, Gold Ledge Campground, and Camp 3 Campground. Click the map tab to view the location of rapids and these alternate access points.
Other Information Sources:
Edison's Kern River flow phone: 877 537 6356
Kern River Festival
Kern River Alliance
Kern Valley River Council
Sequoia National Forest Kernville office phone # 760-376-3781
Sierra South store
Cassady & Calhoun, Holbek & Stanley, Martin, Alan Baty
A Kern River Use Permit is required year round and is valid from May 1 through April 30 each year. Permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis and are free of charge. A permit is required for EACH craft. Group size cannot exceed 18 people on the river at one time. To obtain a permit, fill out an application IN PERSON at Forest Service offices in Kernville, Lake Isabella, Springville or Bakersfield. Applications will not be mailed out or left in office drop boxes. Upon completion of your application, a waterproof permit may be issued.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|2.4||Fairview take out||N/A|
|5.8||Calkins Flat Access||N/A|
|9.4||Ant Canyon Primitive Area||N/A|
|10.3||Gold Ledge Camgpround||N/A|
|13.2||Sock 'Em Dog||V|
|16.6||Camp 3 Campground Access||N/A|
|17.9||Tequila Chute or Pepsi Challenge||III+|
Brush Creek enters from the left near the end of a class 3 rapid. There is also a very large parking area and river access here.
A long class 4 rapid with numerous obstacles has a particularly big, wide hole waiting near the bottom. Limestone campground is on river left.
Many boaters have been "lunch" at Joe's Diner. At most flows, a ledge hole extends out from the right and draws boaters in like lobsters to a pot. The river is always hungry, so just drop on in!
There is roadside parking and river access at the upper end of the Fairview impoundment.
Marks the end of the Limestone section. Southern California Edison diverts up to 600 cfs from the river for the powerhouse near Kernville. All the runs between Fairview and the powerhouse, have shorter seasons and lower flows because of the diversion. Since relicensing, Edison reduces the diversion on weekends under certain conditions to benefit whitewater recreation.
"Bombs Away" is the rapid immediately below the dam. If you want to run it, it takes a little extra work to get up to an access point below the dam.
From below Fairview dam to Calkins Flat is a bit less than 3 miles. This is one of easiest sections to float on the upper Kern. The put-in is downstream of the dam.
Use this primitive camping area as a take out for the easier upstream run or as a put in for the very pretty, but difficult Chamise Gorge section.
The entry rapid to Chamise Gorge.
The passes through two channels.
Upper and lower Salmon Falls are very steep and congested rapids. They are comparable to rapids found on the Cataracts of the Kern. This rapid has a bad sieve in the main channel that has resulted in a number of fatalities. Expert paddlers do run Salmon falls if they feel like it, but they are mostly portaged. The consequences of mistakes in these rapids are lost boats and bodily injury.
Alternate put-in access for the Gold Ledge run that gives you another mile of whitewater.
Access point below the Chamise Gorge.
Some big holes where the river turns away from the road.
Narrow channel through a big drop.
A maze through rocks and brush.
Technical boulder garden.
An alternate put-in access for the Camp 3 and Powerhouse runs.
The river cascades right then bends to the left.
Boulder-choked bend to the left.
Rapid on a left bend.
Tequila Chute to the left or Pepsi Challenge to the right.
A quater-mile long rapid of rocks and holes.
Need Boaters for Flow Study, N. Fork Kern
May 1, 2001
New Gauges On The Kern River
December 1, 2015