Difficulty III-V
Length 16.8 Miles
Gauge No. Kern Above Fairview Dam
Flow Range 400 - 5000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 12 hours ago 300 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 07/05/2020 9:11 pm

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

Forks of the Kern guidebook and map

Sequoia National Forest Kernville office phone # 760-376-3781

Cassady & Calhoun, Holbek & Stanley, Alan Baty


Rapid Descriptions


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11 years ago

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

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2009-04-17 n/a Fatality Other Read More
1996-07-06 Medium Fatality Other Read More
1987-05-03 n/a Injury Other Read More




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Last Chance! National Monuments Review Comments

Thomas O'Keefe

Take action today using our easy online form to protect National Monuments designated under the Antiquities Act! A public comment period began on May 12th and ends July 10th for an April 26th Executive Order which directed Interior Secretary Zinke to conduct a review of all Presidential designations over the past 21 years. A number of Monuments being reviewed are of significant interest to paddlers and provide protections for cherished whitewater stretches, including Bears Ears (Lower San Juan River, UT), Grand Canyon-Parashant (Colorado River, Grand Canyon, AZ), Giant Sequoia National Monument (Tule River, CA), Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (East Branch of the Penobscot River, ME), Rio Grande del Norte National Monument (Rio Grande, Taos Boxes, NM) and many more.

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New Gauges On The Kern River

Dave Steindorf

After 3 years of discussion and negotiation with Southern California Edison and the US Forest Service the Kern River has several new online flow gauges on the Upper Kern River.  These gauges will replace the cumbersome and antiquated flow phone that was part of the Kern River #3 license.

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AW Comments on Forks of the Kern Permits

Jason Robertson

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(CA) Kern River Management Alert

Jason Robertson

255thumb.jpg If you've ever had the misfortune of applying for a permit to run the Forks of the Kern, you know what a royal pain the Forest Service's mismanagement of this river is. We finally have the chance to do something about this by seeking to move the river management into the newly established Sequoia National Monument. American Whitewater's letter on the new plan and our proposal to revise the existing management system is attached.

Thomas O'Keefe


Matt Volpert


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1205322 10/12/15 Thomas O'Keefe minor edits
1214036 12/17/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position
1215407 07/05/20 Matt Volpert updated description
1190011 04/16/07 n/a gage added