Lower Kern River

Class IV (portage)
11.7 miles
1000 cfs - 4000 cfs
36 ft/mi
Sandy Flat
Democrat Beach
Year Around

The Lower Kern is a great year around rafting run due to its fun rapids, pleasant scenery, and reliable flows. Water for this run is released from Lake Isabella for Central Valley farms as well as brave river rafters.

This is a great place to paddle for rafters from Los Angeles since it is a "short" three hour drive away. In fact this is the only local run for L. A. paddling types, so on any summer weekend you will see tons of commercial and private rafters as well as a handful of kayakers paddling the Lower Kern as well as the Class V+ Cataracts of the Kern section below it.

Most rafters will use one of the Forest Service approved put-in locations at Sandy Flat, Hobo Campground, or Miracle Hot Springs. Each of these put-in locations has good camping and access to the river. The hot springs at Miracle make a nice diversion and a chance to meet some river booty or interesting locals. Macho rafters looking for a work out or two full days of rafting will choose to put in just below the Isabella Dam at "BLM South." This adds six miles of rapids and brush to a Lower Kern paddling experience.

Regardless of where you put in, you will need a permit to run this stretch of the Kern River. Permits are free, but need to be picked up at a USFS ranger station. Contact one of the ranger stations below for more information.

Lake Isabella Visitor Center
Greenhorn Ranger District
4875 Ponderosa Drive
Lake Isabella, CA 93240
(760) 379-5646

Cannell Meadow Ranger District
105 Whitney Road
Kernville, CA 93238
(760) 376-3781

Once you get on the river, you'll enjoy miles of great Class III and IV rapids. Immediately following Hobo Campground, you'll paddle Hobo Rapid which is a Class III rapid with some big waves and some brush to avoid. A couple miles down the river you'll start the action with the Class IV rapids White Maiden, Sundown Falls, and Deadman's Curve.

Soon after Dead Man's Curve, you'll want to pay close attention to the river since the dangerous Class V+ rapid Royal Flush is quickly coming. After passing an overhead cable you'll run two Class II rapids followed by thr Class III rapid False Flush. Most boaters will see the signs that warn about the upcoming dangerous rapid (Royal Flush) and eddy out on the right side to portage. Royal Flush is a big rapid with a nasty undercut on the left that has pinned several swimmers who have miraculously escaped. Be careful.

Below Royal Flush are several truly fun Class III and IV rapids including Surprise, Hari Kari, Horseshoe Falls, Sidewinder, and Pinball.

If you're interested in pictures and the perspective of an inflatable kayaker, check out Creekin's Lower Kern description.


To reach Democrat Beach (take-out): Get yourself to the community of Bakersfield on Highway 99. Look for Highway 178 in Bakersfield and head east up the Kern River Canyon. Keep your eyes peeled for signs that point to Democrat Hot Springs and follow them to a parking area and river access.

To Sandy Flat Campground (put-in): From Democrat Hot Springs get yourself back onto Highway 178 and head further East until you see signs for Sandy Flat Campground. If you reach Lake Isabella you've gone too far.


Kern River Outfitters

Kern River Tours

Whitewater Voyages

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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