Kern River North Fork near Kernville


Stretch: Kern Powerhouse #3 to Isabella Reservoir
Difficulty: Class II (two IIIs), class III- (one III+) above 1500 cfs
Distance: 2 or 4 miles, 1 or more hours
Flows: rafts 600 - 6000 cfs, kayaks 500 - 1500 then harder, IK minimum 300
Gauge: measured as North Fork Kern at Kernville (by Army Corps)
Gradient: 30 fpm average
Put-in: on left bank below Kern Powerhouse #3, 2750'
Take-out: Riverside Park in Kernville or further down, 2690'
Shuttle: 2 or 4 miles (10 minutes) one-way
Maps: USFS Sequoia NF, AAA Sequoia, Topo
Season: almost year round, from snowmelt, below hydropower diversion
Agency: USFS, permit not required, guided Whitewater Rafting
Notes: © 1998 Bill Tuthill, CreeksYahoo

This is the best training run in Southern California, and well worth doing if you're in the area. There are many campgrounds along the north fork Kern, and many nearby motels if you prefer not to rough it. The river water is cold, clear, and clean, a welcome change from conditions below Isabella Reservoir.

Permits can be picked up at the ranger station in Kernville, but many boaters do not bother to get permits for this easy section. Other sections upstream are much tougher, and permits are a good way for rangers to ensure that boaters have the equipment and skills necessary for survival.

Just upstream from the powerhouse is a long class III+ boulder garden, called (strangely enough) Powerhouse. Were it not for this rapid, you could start one mile further upstream without making the run any more difficult.
Big Daddy, class III-
A gravel bar drop feeds towards the right wall, creating some large waves. This rapid is technically easy, but its waves are more than a meter high, making it rate higher than class II.
Pleasant class II drops continue among willow and aspen forests.
Ewing's, class III to III+
The river drops over a boulder bar, with more water towards the left. Some of the boulders stick up, creating wrap rocks at low flows or large holes at high flows. Although this rapid changes from year to year, there is usually a straight line thru that avoids all problems. Scout from the right bank if you feel nervous. The rapid is named after a restaurant perched high on the left bank.
The highway 155 bridge crosses overhead, signaling the start of Riverside Park, where kayakers have modified the streambed to create surfing waves and eddies to help while practicing ferry techniques. It is fun to spend time playing in the artificial rapids here.
End of Riverside Park. Class II rapids, brushy in places, continue all the way to Isabella Reservoir.
A turnout past the golf course makes a convenient take-out point.

Shuttle Directions

To reach take-out, drive east from Bakersfield on highway 178 to Isabella Reservoir, and turn left onto highway 155. After Wofford Heights there legal parking just before the golf course. At the edge of Kernville, Riverside Park is the first righthand turn. Some people take out at Riverside Park in Kernville; parking there might be crowded but shady spots are available.

To reach put-in, continue north on highway 155 just past Riverside Park, crossing a bridge to the left bank of the Kern. At the stop sign, turn left onto mountain highway 99 (Sierra Way) and continue about 1.5 miles further north. When you see a high-tension lines and a powerhouse next to the river, turn left and park at the river access point.

To find nearby food and lodging, type Kernville into the box and click Search.

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