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Difficulty III-V
Length 11 Miles
Gauge Kern Below Lake Isabella
Flow Range 500 - 5000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 4 hours ago 186 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 12/18/2019 9:57 pm

River Description

This is a scenic section of the Kern that is especially popular because it has dependable flows through the summer months.    There are steep and exciting class 3 to 4 drops spread evenly over the run, but there are also long sections of slow scenic floating.  The clean granite cliffs along much of the reach are beautiful and impressive.   There are also several hot springs along the run, but most are on private property.

Permits are required for each boat that goes down  the river.   Permits must be picked up in person at the ranger station.   Rangers usually monitor the put in. 

Put in:  Miracle Hot Springs area offers plenty of day use parking,  There will usually be a ranger there to check your permits and give advice.   Google Map.

Take out:  A paved road leads from the main highway down to the Democrat Take out.  There are signs at the turn off.   There is a parking area for private boaters on the right.   There are toilets but no potable water at the take out.   There are a few picnic tables over looking the river.   The take out ramp is shared by commercial outfitters, and private boaters.   Vehicles can park near the ramp for loading only.   Buses need to turn around so leave plenty of space for everybody.  Google Map.

Other Information Sources:

Kern River Alliance

Kern Valley River Council
Audubon, Kern River Preserve
Wild and Scenic Kern
Sequoia National Forest Kernville office phone # 760-376-3781
Lower Kern Guide Book - Miracle Run Section

Cassady & Calhoun, Holbek & Stanley, Alan Baty

FERC relicensing of Borel Powerhouse:    The Borel powerhouse project received a new federal license in May of 2006.   The powerhouse generates electricity and profits from a public resource, the Kern river.    Project licenses can run 30 to 50 years and must undergo a public process whenever they are renewed.   The public has the right to impose conditions on the project in exchange for the use of the public resource.  

As part of the new license issued by FERC on May 17, 2006, SCE is mandated to release boatable flows into upstream bypassed reach.

The Kern WaterMaster and the Kern Water Users (several irrigation districts and the city of Bakersfield) have strongly objected to this license condition. They are pressuring SCE, the Forest Service and the outfitters into accepting capital improvements at the Democrat take out rather than supplemental boating flows in this reach.    A compromise solution that involved SCE helping to fund improvements to the Kernville whitewater park along with Democrat improvements was discussed, but fell through in January of 2009 when SCE and AW did not reach a final agreement. 

The FERC project number is P-382. Documents about this project can be found on the web at using the ‘‘RIMS’’ link, select ‘‘Docket#’’ and follow the instructions (call 202–208–2222 for assistance).

Links to important documents:
Extension of Time for boating release agreement.
Objections of Kern Water Users to boating flows
New license doucument, Granted May 17, 2008
Army Corp objections to boating releases
Comments by American Whitewater and Sierra Club

Rapid Descriptions


Gage Descriptions

Releases from Isabella reservoir are totally controlled by the Kern River Water Master and the Army Corp of Engineers.  Flows are used for irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley through out the spring, summer and sometimes into fall.   Irrigation needs change primarily by season, but also somewhat day to day.  Flow records show that releases are often adjusted once a day.  In recent years, weekend flows have sometimes been significantly lower than weekday flows. 


Releases can come directly from the main dam and from the Borel powerhouse upstream of the put in.  Borel does not control the flow but can only utilize the water that is released by the Water Master.   Borel does not  pulse the flows as is typical on many other rivers.  This is because there is no reservoir downstream which could re regulate the flows to a pattern suitable for irrigation needs.  

The graph above sometimes shows sudden spikes or drops in flow with an equally sudden return to the previous flow.   It is not clear if these are actual flow changes or gauge errors. 

Flow data is provided by the Army Corp of Engineers, at Isabella info

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  
2007-07-27 n/a Fatality Other Read More



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Sierra & Sequoia National Forest Management Plans (CA)

Theresa Simsiman

The U.S. Forest Service recently released the revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Draft Forest Plans (DFP) for the Sierra and Sequoia National Forests. As part of this process, National Forests are required to identify the eligibility of rivers for inclusion into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Once a river is found eligible it is managed to protect the values that support their inclusion. To that end, American Whitewater has identified recreation as an outstandingly remarkable value on many iconic whitewater rivers within the Sierra and Sequoia National Forest and is advocating for their inclusion into the inventory of eligible Wild & Scenic Rivers. Dinkey Creek Photo by Daniel Lundberg

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AW Recommends California Rivers for Wild and Scenic

Megan Hooker

Last week, American Whitewater recommended that the U.S. Forest Service assess whether numerous whitewater rivers in California are eligible for Wild and Scenic status. The agency is currently revising Forest Plans for the Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra National Forests, and this process provides an opportunity to evaluate rivers for whether they are eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. If a river is found eligible through this process, the Forest Service protects the values that could make it worthy for Wild and Scenic designation, including its free-flowing characteristics. 
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Comments on the Borel Hydroproject, Kern River (CA)

John Gangemi

American Whitewater and the local Sierra Club River Touring Chapter filed comments on Southern California Edison’s application for a new license for the Borel Hydroelectric Project.  This filing is part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing process for this project.  American Whitewater and the Sierra Club River Touring Chapter have participated in this relicense process since August 2000.  This relicense proceeding is a 5.5 year commitment. 


Dave Steindorf


Matt Volpert


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1195846 08/22/16 Dave Steindorf
1214054 12/18/19 Matt Volpert updated description
1214053 12/18/19 Matt Volpert updated stats
1214055 12/18/19 Matt Volpert updated description
1214056 12/18/19 Matt Volpert updated permit
1214057 12/18/19 Matt Volpert updated name
1214058 12/18/19 Matt Volpert updated description
1190015 02/13/09 n/a