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Difficulty III-V
Length 19 Miles
Gauge No. Kern Below Fairview Dam
Flow Range 500 - 2500 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 574 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 10/12/2015 10:31 pm

River Description


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. 

1) Johnsdale Bridge to Fairview Dam: Limestone Run (2.4 miles, class III-IV)
This segment of the run is free flowing so check the flows for the Kern above the Fairview Dam to get an accurate reading for this segment. Because flows are not impacted by a diversion, this section is typically an option when the powerhouse is diverting flow out of the segments below Fairview Dam. The main rapids are Brush Creek (3), Limestone (4), Joe's Diner (4), and Betty's Bakery (3). The scenery of this dramatic canyon is excellent with numerous limestone walls with small caves and dripping water. 
 
2) Fairview Dam to Calkins Flat: Calkins Flat Run (2.8 miles, class III)
This segment is signifcantly less difficult than the sections upstream or downstream. It's serves as a short intermediate run by itself or a warm up to the Chamise Gorge. Southern California Edison diverts up to 600 cfs from the river for the powerhouse near Kernville. All the runs between Fairview Dam and the KR3 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 (check the flow tab for more information on how to interpret the gages and determine if the river is running).
 
3) Calkins Flat to Gold Ledge Campgound: Chamise Gorge (4.5 miles, class IV/V)
The segment begins with Entrance Rapid. Satan's Slot is another named rapid that comes up just before the river cascades through Salmon Falls. An altnerate access provides a take-out option above Salmon Falls. Flows for this segment are also impacted by the Southern California Edison diversion dam.
 
3) Gold Ledge Campground to KR3 Powerhouse: Gold Ledge Run (8.7 miles, class V)
This section is the most difficult on the Upper Kern with named drops that include Squashed Paddler, Sock 'Em Dog, The Flume, Fender Bender, The Cable, The Wall, Tombstone, Buzzard's Perch, Tequila Chute (left) or Pepsi Challenge (right) and Powerhouse. Flows for this segment are also impacted by the Southern California Edison diversion dam.
 

Logistics:

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
http://www.sierrasouth.com/conservation.htm#KR3
Camping
Wikipedia
Kern River Festival
Kern River Alliance
Kern Valley River Council
Sequoia National Forest Kernville office phone # 760-376-3781
Sierra South store
Cacreeks.com
Cassady & Calhoun, Holbek & Stanley, Martin, Alan Baty

 

Rapid Descriptions

Brush Creek

Class - III Mile - 0.7
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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.

Limestone

Class - IV Mile - 1
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A long class 4 rapid with numerous obstacles has a particularly big, wide hole waiting near the bottom.   Limestone campground is on river left. 

Joe's Diner

Class - IV Mile - 1.2
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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!

Fairview take out

Class - N/A Mile - 2.4
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There is roadside parking and river access at the upper end of the Fairview impoundment. 

Fairview Dam

Class - N/A Mile - 2.6
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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.

Bomb's Away

Class - V Mile - 2.7
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"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.

Fairview put-in

Class - III Mile - 3
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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.

Calkins Flat Access

Class - N/A Mile - 5.8
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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.

Entrance Rapid

Class - IV+ Mile - 6
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The entry rapid to Chamise Gorge.

Satan's Slot

Class - IV+ Mile - 7.6
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The passes through two channels.

Salmon Falls

Class - V Mile - 8
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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. 

Ant Canyon Primitive Area

Class - N/A Mile - 9.4
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Alternate put-in access for the Gold Ledge run that gives you another mile of whitewater.

Gold Ledge Camgpround

Class - N/A Mile - 10.3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Access point below the Chamise Gorge.

Squashed Paddler

Class - V Mile - 12.9
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Big holes

Sock 'Em Dog

Class - V Mile - 13.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Some big holes where the river turns away from the road.

The Flume

Class - IV+ Mile - 15.1
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Narrow channel through a big drop.

Fender Bender

Class - V Mile - 15.4
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A maze through rocks and brush.

The Cable

Class - IV Mile - 16.2
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Technical boulder garden.

Camp 3 Campground Access

Class - N/A Mile - 16.6
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An alternate put-in access for the Camp 3 and Powerhouse runs.

The Wall

Class - IV Mile - 16.7
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The river cascades right then bends to the left.

Tombstone

Class - IV Mile - 17
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Boulder-choked bend to the left.

Buzzard's Perch

Class - III+ Mile - 17.6
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Rapid on a left bend.

Tequila Chute or Pepsi Challenge

Class - III+ Mile - 17.9
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Tequila Chute to the left or Pepsi Challenge to the right.

Powerhouse Rapid

Class - III+ Mile - 18.6
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A quater-mile long rapid of rocks and holes.

Comments

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Nick Prete
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6 months ago

Great run! You can usually meet up with other local boaters at Riverside Park on weekend mornings around 10am. When there's enough water to hit up some of these sections they are super fun! We ran Chamise Gorge and Limestone sections, one in a kayak and the other in a raft. Here's a video of it - https://youtu.be/H_0fs413dcw

Summary of Gauge Readings

Beginning no later than 10 a.m. and ending no earlier than 5 p.m. of each day that whitewater flows are scheduled, the Licensee shall release the minimum whitewater flows described below into the Project bypass reach.
 
The flow information in the flow table includes the following:
 
  1. The Kern River #3 Canal Flow is the amount of water the hydropower project is diverting out of the river. The canal has a capacity of 600 cfs.
  2. Kern River Below Fairview Dam is the flow in the river for the run (in the section between the dam and the powerhouse).
  3. Fairview Dam Inflow is the flow upstream of the dam before the diversion.
  4. Fairview Dam Running Average is the average flow for the day beginning from midnight.
 
April 1 up to the weekend prior to Memorial Day Weekend: Fridays and Weekends
If Fairview Dam Running Average at midnight is 1000-1700 cfs, then there will be release of 700-1100 cfs.
If Fairview Dam Running Average at midnight is >1700 cfs, then there will be release of at least 1400 cfs
 
Weekend prior to Memorial Day Weekend until July 4: Daily
If Fairview Dam Running Average at midnight is 1000-1700 cfs, then there will be release of 700-1100 cfs.
If Fairview Dam Running Average at midnight is >1700 cfs, then there will be release of at least 1400 cfs
 
July 5 up to July 31: Weekends
If Fairview Dam Running Average at midnight is 1000-1700 cfs, then there will be release of 700-1100 cfs.
If Fairview Dam Running Average at midnight is >1700 cfs, then there will be release of at least 1400 cfs
 

Gauge NameReadingTimeComment
No. Kern Below Fairview Dam
AW Gauge Info
574 cfs 01h21m
No. Kern Above Fairview Dam
AW Gauge Info
1135 cfs 01h21m
No. Kern At Kernville
AW Gauge Info
1548 cfs 👍 ⚠️ 01h06m
;

Directions Description


 
 
 

;
Date Flow Result Factor  
2017-05-27 High Fatality Cold Water Read More
2011-07-24 n/a Fatality High Water Read More

Alerts

News

article main photo

Forest Service Issues Revised Conditions for Kern No. 3 Hydropower Project, (CA)

2004-01-21 00:00:00-05
John Gangemi

The Sequoia National Forest released the revised conditions for the Kern River No. 3 Hydropower project.  American Whitewater, Friends of the River and other parties have been engaged in a legal battle over whitewater flows in this reach since 1996.  The KR3 hydroproject dewaters seventeen-miles of the Kern River upstream of Kernville.  This reach contains individual whitewater sections ranging from Class II to Class V in difficulty.
article main photo

Need Boaters for Flow Study, N. Fork Kern

2001-05-01 00:00:00-04
Nick Lipkowski

American Whitewater is participating in a whitewater boating study on the Kern River from Fairview Dam to the town of Kernville. You can participate too simply by registering at one of the drop boxes. This self-guided flow study will run throughout the 2001 Spring season and be used to determine recreational flows for the next 30 years.
article main photo

New Gauges On The Kern River

2015-12-01 15:22:00-05
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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Thomas O'Keefe

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Matt Muir

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Paul Martzen