Kern - 2) Forks of the Kern to Johnsondale Bridge

Kern, California, US


2) Forks of the Kern to Johnsondale Bridge

Usual Difficulty III-V (for normal flows)
Length 16.8 Miles

Forks of the Kern -Westwall

Forks of the Kern -Westwall
Photo of Dave Priem by Robert King KHCC taken 5/2001 @ 5500cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
No. Kern Above Fairview Dam
dream-681 400 - 5000 cfs III-V 00h53m 337 cfs (too low)

River Description

The Forks of the Kern is a classic class V section with outstanding scenery. It is a popular kayak run and also supports commercial rafting trips. Kayakers tend to do the run in a single day while the commercial companies stretch it into two or even three days to allow their customers to savor the experience.

Getting There: Johnsondale Bridge is 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.

Take-out: Johnsondale bridge. topozone map, google map.

Put-in: Forks of the Kern trail. From Johnsondale bridge drive west about 4 miles then turn left and follow signs to the Forks trailhead. This road is closed in the winter and opens back up in the spring. The gate is about 3 miles past the junction, just past Camp Whitsett, near Dry Meadow Creek. Call the Kernville office at (760)-376-3781 to find out if the road is open or not. topozone map, google map.

Other Information Sources:

Sequoia Forest: Forks info
Sequoia National Forest Kernville office phone # 760-376-3781
Sierra South store

Cassady & Calhoun, Holbek & Stanley, Alan Baty


Permit Information

On the Forks Run, the Forest Service operates an advance reservation service in an effort to give boaters a more equal chance of obtaining a permit. The Forks Run is limited to 15 people per day. Permits are required from May 15 through September 15 each year. To obtain a reservation, there is a $10.00 fee to enter the selection process. Applications for a reservation will be made through the mail beginning March 15 each year. The final deadline to submit an application is April 15. Applications will be separated by requested put-in dates, and a drawing will occur for those dates which have an excess of requests. You must notify the Kernville Ranger Station within 7 days of your scheduled trip, if you need to cancel your reservation or if your party size changes.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-10-12 23:56:34

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
October 22 2009 (3379 days ago)
x (1)
I've been down the forks over a dozen times, each time without the required permit, and never once
ran across a ranger. The forks is a great class IV+ wilderness run with a few V's. Be sure to go
with someone who knows the section well as it is very continuous and there are a couple big holes
in the "gauntlet" that you can't scout...good luck.
December 28 2008 (3677 days ago)
x (1)
To limit boaters to 15 per day is CA gone nuts. The pure experience is insane. Fun is where
everything is. For fun you should provide for the people at the rate of 1,000 per day. Sonny
August 15 2007 (4178 days ago)
Paul MartzenDetails
Peter Wiechers reports that the forest service is planning to charge a $10 reservation fee to all
paddling groups on the Forks of the Kern. A public meeting is being held on Thursday, August 16,
2007 at the Senior Center in Lake Isabella from 4-6pm to discuss aspects of this and other new fees
being planned for forest visitors. The unneeded reservation system for one day trips on the Forks
is already an annoyance. A new fee will add injury to the irritation.