Updated: April 13, 2006

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Rafting the Upper Kern River

Difficulty: Class III
Length: 2 miles
Flows: 600 cfs - 6000 cfs
Gradient: 30 ft/mi
Put-in: below Kern Powerhouse
Take-out: Riverside Park
Season: April to July

The North fork of the Kern, referred to as the "upper," consists of an irrigated river bed broken up by a series of dams and powerhouses. Rafters break the river into six distinct sections for a total of 19 miles of varied whitewater.

Of these six sections, the most commonly run is the Class III Powerhouse Run above Kernville. Its popularity is due to its long season, easy shuttle, and fun rapids. Many commercial companies raft this stretch of whitewater several times each day. Additionally, Los Angeles boaters often frequent this section of river in the spring and early summer for a change of pace from the Lower Kern River.

The Powerhouse Run consists of fun Class II rapids as well as the Class III rapids Big Daddy and Ewing's. The take out is just below the Highway 155 bridge at Riverside Park. The riverbed has been changed at Riverside Park to create some fun river features for paddlers to enjoy. Intrepid paddlers can continue down river from here all the way to Lake Isabella to add some brushy Class II river action to their trip.

Riverside Park is the home of the annual Kern River Festival held in April. Events typically include a kayak rodeo, raft race, and kayak race. This is one of the first whitewater festivals of the river season and is usually well attended!

If you're interested in pictures and the perspective of an inflatable kayaker, check out cacreeks's Upper Kern at Kernville description.

Directions

To Riverside Park (take-out): Get yourself to Bakersfield on Highway 99. Look for Highway 178 in Bakersfield and head east up the Kern River Canyon. When you reach Lake Isabella take a right (north) on Highway 155 and head to Kernville. As you drive into Kernville, take your first right into Riverside Park.

To Powerhouse #3 (put-in): Get back onto Highway 155 and head through Kernville. After crossing a bridge over the Kern, hang a left on Sierra Way at the first stop sign. You'll drive a mile and a half before taking a left turn to the powerhouse where you can park.

Outfitters

Kern River Outfitters

Kern River Tours

Mountain and River Adventures

Whitewater Voyages

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Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.

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