Southern California
Kern River

Kern River Rafting in Southern California

The Kern River is definitely one of California's most popular rafting trips. Located on the southern end of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and just minutes from the lowland fields of Bakersfield, California the Kern River is a great escape to higher elevations. The Kern River is the nearby go-to destination for those in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Fresno and surrounding areas.

Maybe the best thing about the Kern River, beyond accessibility, is its versatility.

Upper Kern River Rafting

Class II and III Upper Kern River

Just five minutes from town is the milder Class II and III section of the Upper Kern River nicknamed "Lickety Split". This 4 mile stretch is popular with kids and those just wanting a little outdoor fun.

Class IV and V Upper Kern River

Further upstream (about 20 minutes from town) is a section nicknamed the "Thunder Run". With Class V drops interspersed with rock gardens and frolicking Class III and IV rapids makes for a thunderous whitewater experience. Did we mention that this upper section of the Kern River is designated and protected as "Wild and Scenic"? That translates to untamed natural beauty that surrounds your heart-pounding rafting adventure.
Kern River

Lower Kern River Rafting

The roughly 20 mile section of the lower Kern River keeps a pretty steady flow throughout the summer months, in a normal snowpack year. The lower section is classic pool-drop style rapids (where you have some flat-water between rapids).

Class II-III Lower Kern River

Known as "The Jungle Run" this easier stretch of Kern River rapids with overhung maples, sycamore, and willows can be among the busiest of the Kern River rafting runs. Different outfitters have their own unique ways of combining these various sections of the Kern River.

Class IV Lower Kern River

Towards the end of the "raft-able" length of the Kern River is a section of larger Class IV rapids (and one mandatory portage at "Royal Flush Rapid"). Private boaters refer to this section as "The Miracle Run" while commercial outfitters

refer to this section with various nicknames that in one way or another depict big whitewater. Whichever way the several rafting outfitters decide to slice of and mix-and-match their trips on the lower Kern River, they all end their river journeys at a place called "Democrat" or "Demo" at mile 19.24.

Kern River Outfitters Lower

The Forks of the Kern River

Part of the upper-most section of the Kern River, the "Forks of the Kern" refers to the confluence of the Little Kern River with the main Kern River.

This is perhaps one of North America's most spectacular wilderness river runs. Starting high in the Sequoia National Forest, the river drops over Class V falls and almost continuous Class IV rapids, dropping at nearly 60 feet per mile!

The total length of the Forks of the Kern is only 18 miles, but given the hardy nature of the wilderness setting, with such a fast-paced call to action on the river, a well-deserved break is part of this experience. You will want the time to take side-hike explorations to towering waterfalls, solid-slab granite cliffs, and jaw-dropping vista overlooks.

Several lengths of overnight trips (2-3 days) are offered by outfitters in the area.

Kern River Whitewater Voyages Forks

Rafting Companies on the Kern River