Frequently Asked Questions

Who can go white water rafting?

MRA has a proven track record of providing safe and enjoyable trips to a diverse array of clients, including the visually impaired and physically handicapped.  We are also happy to accommodate our guests’ special dietary needs and are able to pack along medication. Please fully complete your Participation Agreement where you should list any special needs. This information will be relayed to your Trip Leader and provisions will be made to accommodate your requests.

If you have any particular questions about who can go rafting, please feel free to call our reservation office at 800-861-6553 for more detailed information.

Forks of the Kern
Minimum Age 16

Thunder Run (Upper Kern, Class V)
Minimum Age 14

Upper Kern (Class IV)
Minimum Age 12

Lower Kern
Minimum Age 10

Powerhouse
Minimum Age 5 years old and 50 pounds

MRA offers trips to suit just about everyone. Anyone young or old that is in reasonable physical condition is welcome!

  • Mature Adventurer: Active folks in their 70’s and 80’s love rafting with MRA!
  • Mom or Dad Adventurer: Our river trips make great opportunities for family bonding.
  • Non-Swimming Adventurer:  is welcome on Class III, provided they are comfortable with the possibility that they might “take an unexpected swim” in the river. In this case their life jacket would keep them afloat until they are pulled back into the raft. Swimming ability is required on our Class IV-V river trips.
  • Plus Size Adventurer:  Each participant will need to fit into one of our life jackets with all buckles fastened.  Our life jackets fit a maximum torso circumference of 52 inches.
  • Adventurers with Medical Conditions: Folks with a history of heart trouble, asthma, epilepsy, allergy to bee stings, or any other potentially serious medical condition should consult their doctor before coming on a rafting trip.Pregnancy: For safety and liability reasons, we advise pregnant women not to participate in any of our activities.
  • English as a Second Language Adventurer: For safety reasons on Class IV and V river trips, all participants must be able to understand our safety talk and guide instructions, which are normally delivered in English.  On Class III and easier river trips, non-English speakers are most welcome and, unless other arrangements are made, must bring an interpreter.

Can you accommodate special needs?

MRA has a proven track record of providing safe and enjoyable trips to a diverse array of clients, including the visually impaired and physically handicapped.  We are also happy to accommodate our guests’ special dietary needs and are able to pack along medication. Please fully complete your Participation Agreement where you should list any special needs. This information will be relayed to your Trip Leader and provisions will be made to accommodate your requests.

If you have any particular questions about who can go rafting, please feel free to call our reservation office at 800-861-6553 for more detailed information.

About the Kern River

Class Rating Difficulty Minimum Age/Weight Length of Trip River Segment
Class I-II:  Float trip on moving water with some obstacles like waves and/or rocks that are can be easily avoided. Anyone five years old + fifty pounds can go. Beginners Five year olds (+ 50 pounds) and older. 1 hour to 1 day Powerhouse Section
Class III:  Plenty of waves, big and small; exposed rocks; and rapids with clear yet sometimes narrow routes that require maneuverability in order to negotiate. Beginners 10 year olds and older. ½ day to 1 day Lower Kern, Class III
Class IV:  Longer rapids with bigger drops and more obstacles. Narrower routes that require precise maneuvering and power in order to negotiate. Beginner to Intermediate 10 years old and older.
12 years old or older.
Half, one, and two day trips Lower Kern, Class IV;
Upper Kern
Class V:  Most difficult whitewater that can be run. Rapids are long and may have many parts. Drops are more frequent and powerful. Often only one viable route that requires strength, precision, and skillful boat maneuvering in order to negotiate successfully. All guests have previous whitewater paddling experience and pass pre-trip swim test. Advanced

Advanced to
Expert

14 years old or older;
16 years old or older
One day trips;
two and three day trips
Upper Kern, Thunder Run; Forks of the Kern

The Kern offers over 60 miles of paddling fun. Due to location of dams and runnable sections of the Kern, the river is divided into three segments which are called (1) the Forks of the Kern; (2) the Upper Kern and (3) the Lower Kern.

The Forks of the Kern is a two or three-day, nearly 20 mile stretch of Class IV and V whitewater that runs through one of the most beautiful canyons in the country. This trip is typically not recommended for first time rafters, and offers an unparalleled opportunity to experience one of the most remote and exhilarating rafting trips anywhere.

The Upper Kern one day trip offers almost 20 miles of Class III and IV whitewater to choose from and is our primary early season trip offering. The Thunder Run is a one-day Class V trip that runs through a section of the Upper Kern with a steeper gradient and a higher class of rapids than the rest of the Upper. It offers those looking for a bigger challenge the opportunity to test their skills on one of the wilder sections of the river. The Thunder Run, like the Forks of the Kern, is for experienced rafters that are fit and ready for adventure.

Our beginners section is known as the Powerhouse section, and is sometimes referred to as our Rapid Blitz and Double Blitz river trips. These are very short one to 3.5 hour trips and are suitable for just about everyone five years and older (must weigh at least fifty pounds). This stretch is at the very bottom of the Upper Kern, which can be confusing. The rapids in this stretch are rated Class I-III. The Powerhouse run offers really fun, short trips.

The Lower Kern River is our premier two-day Class III-IV trip that offers something for everyone. Originating from Lake Isabella reservoir, this 20 mile stretch of river has some of the most enviable qualities of any river in the country, warm water and plenty of great whitewater to boot! Halfway through the trip, we stop and spend the evening at our private campground where you are lavished with sumptuous meals, comfy sleeping pads, and an outdoor experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime. The Lower Kern is perfect for a family outing and is enjoyed by experienced as well as novice rafters. The Lower Kern is primarily a two day trip, but for those looking for a shorter trip, several one day offerings are available here on the Lower Kern. This segment of the Kern River is arguably Southern California’s “premiere” overnight rafting experience.

Typically, the Kern River flows from late April through September. The best time to book your trip depends on the stretch of river you are interested in paddling. The Forks of the Kern, the Upper Kern River, and the Thunder Run stretches are early to mid-season trips depending on the spring snow melt. The best time to run the Forks and Upper Kern stretches are from late March until mid-July. The Lower Kern usually runs from late-May through mid-September.

What’s the difference in the stretches of the Kern?

The Kern offers over 60 miles of paddling fun. Due to location of dams and runnable sections of the Kern, the river is divided into three segments which are called (1) the Forks of the Kern; (2) the Upper Kern and (3) the Lower Kern.

The Forks of the Kern is a two or three-day, nearly 20 mile stretch of Class IV and V whitewater that runs through one of the most beautiful canyons in the country. This trip is typically not recommended for first time rafters, and offers an unparalleled opportunity to experience one of the most remote and exhilarating rafting trips anywhere.

The Upper Kern one day trip offers almost 20 miles of Class III and IV whitewater to choose from and is our primary early season trip offering. The Thunder Run is a one-day Class V trip that runs through a section of the Upper Kern with a steeper gradient and a higher class of rapids than the rest of the Upper. It offers those looking for a bigger challenge the opportunity to test their skills on one of the wilder sections of the river. The Thunder Run, like the Forks of the Kern, is for experienced rafters that are fit and ready for adventure.

Our beginners section is known as the Powerhouse section, and is sometimes referred to as our Rapid Blitz and Double Blitz river trips. These are very short one to 3.5 hour trips and are suitable for just about everyone five years and older (must weigh at least fifty pounds). This stretch is at the very bottom of the Upper Kern, which can be confusing. The rapids in this stretch are rated Class I-III. The Powerhouse run offers really fun, short trips.

The Lower Kern River is our premier two-day Class III-IV trip that offers something for everyone. Originating from Lake Isabella reservoir, this 20 mile stretch of river has some of the most enviable qualities of any river in the country, warm water and plenty of great whitewater to boot! Halfway through the trip, we stop and spend the evening at our private campground where you are lavished with sumptuous meals, comfy sleeping pads, and an outdoor experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime. The Lower Kern is perfect for a family outing and is enjoyed by experienced as well as novice rafters. The Lower Kern is primarily a two day trip, but for those looking for a shorter trip, several one day offerings are available here on the Lower Kern. This segment of the Kern River is arguably Southern California’s “premiere” overnight rafting experience.

Directions

For details on where to camp during your rafting trip, click here. Here is a list of lodging options near Kernville.

Driving directions to Dome Rock:
From Bakersfield: Take Hwy 99 north to Hwy 65, take Hwy 190 East toward the little town of Ponderosa. About one mile BEFORE Ponderosa, turn left on a dirt road toward the Needles. Drive the dirt road about two miles, park and then it’s a 2-3 mile hike out to see the Needles.

From Kernville: Take Kernville Road to the dead end at Sierra Way. Turn left (north) on Sierra Way and drive as if you are headed to the Trail of 100 Giants up river. Keep going past the Trail of 100 Giants until you reach the dirt road about one mile before the little town of Ponderosa.

If you happen to be a private pilot, the Kern Valley Airport is only minutes away from our check-in center.  We would be happy to arrange a shuttle for you.

Meadows Field in Bakersfield is about an hour from our check-in center and has a new terminal.

For complete travel information-including directions and maps, click on our Driving Directions page.

What to bring

A guitar or harmonica would be a great choice for an overnight trip on the Lower Kern.

We recommend that you leave your valuables at home when rafting with us. Expensive jewelry, watches, and cameras that are not waterproof add little to your trip experience and can cause heartache if they are lost or damaged.

A list of recommended gear items, specific to your trip, is outlined in our trip notes that we make available to you at the time of reservation.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s all about making memories on the water here on the Kern River. During your river trip, we stage our outdoor adventure photographers along the banks of the river, in strategic areas, waiting to capture you in all your white water glory. We do our best to capture each trip because we know you want proof of your accomplishments as you conquer the Kern!  View your photos once you get back to our check-in center.

If you wish to bring along a camera, we recommend bringing only waterproof cameras (available for purchase at our check-in centers).

MRA staff is prepared to provide basic first aid, but we are prohibited by law from providing and are not trained to administer medications or advanced medical care. All clients with medical conditions necessitating medication should bring along their own medication and keep it handy, plus inform your guide about such medication/condition.

On most of our one-day trips, the essentials will include a personal water bottle, and some sunscreen to touch-up during the day. Keys, prescription glasses without a retention strap, wallets, or anything you can’t live without, should be locked up in your car—we’ll hold your keys. On longer trips, or trips without easy roadside access, there will often be a “day” bag into which you can place an extra t-shirt or jacket, hat, etc.

If you have medications such as an Epi-pen (for bee-sting allergies) or other items that should stay complete dry but remain accessible, place them inside two ziplock bags, and let your guide and the trip leader know. They may put them in with the first aid kit that is along on every trip, or some other more secure location.

If you have any questions, be sure to ask your guide or any of our friendly staff when you check in.

During big water years, when there is an abundance of water, you might experience an occasional mosquito, but for the most part, biting insects are not a problem on the river. One exception is the yellow jacket which can occasionally be a nuisance on late season Lower Kern trips.

About the boats

We pride ourselves in running only top of the line rafts and equipment. Our rafts are constructed from a high quality Hypalon composite that offer a durability and comfort that is unmatched in the industry.

Forks of the Kern trips are limited to 15 guests.  Upper Kern trips have a limit of 25 guests. On occasion, when taking certain groups, we are allowed to raise the limit to 30. Thunder Run trips are limited to 25 guests. Lower Kern rafting trips are limited to 30 guests.  River trips on the Powerhouse run are limited to our manpower and resources.

An oar boat is maneuvered by a guide sitting in the center of the raft and manipulating a set of oars.  These boats are primarily used as gear and safety boats, and occasionally they carry a couple of paddlers in the front compartment. A paddleboat is a raft navigated by four to seven paddlers and a guide. This is the most common configuration we use on the river. A “hind end frame” is an oar frame strapped to the rear of a paddle boat. This hybrid raft is sometimes used during high water conditions and allows the highest degree of steering coupled with the acceleration of a paddle crew.

Our boats accommodate about five to six guests, plus one guide.

About rafting

Plenty! Although nothing beats a whitewater trip on the Kern, many of our guests have inquired how they can extend their visit with another outing in the Valley. Check out our Outside Links page for ideas.

The Kern is tucked away in the Southern Sierra and blessed with ideal weather for rafting. Early season trips (late March through May) can sometimes present cooler days, but the majority of the season offers temperatures from the high 80’s to the mid 90’s.

Dress with both the water temperature and the air temperature in mind, since you’ll be getting wet. In the warm weather of summer, shorts and a t-shirt are great.  In the spring time and on cooler days (and always on Class V rivers), we require wetsuits or wet suit/paddle jacket combinations. Ask us about renting wetsuits when you call to book your trip. For extra warmth on cool days, it is a good idea to bring some synthetic fleece, polypro, Capilene, or wool garments. In cold weather don’t wear cotton. Wet cotton saps heat, while fleece, poly, wool, and similar fabrics provide insulation even when wet.

Shoes: Tennis shoes or a fully enclosed type of athletic shoe provide the best foot protection on the river. Wetsuit booties are excellent.  Teva sandals and other strap-on sandals work well in warmer weather, but do not offer as much foot protection.

Sunglasses:  If you wear prescription glasses an eye glass retainer such as Chums work well to prevent loss of your glasses. Instead of contact lenses, it is better to wear an old pair of glasses with a retainer.

Sunscreen: Use sunscreen, especially on the tops of upper legs, shoulders, back of neck and top of nose. Sunscreen applied on your forehead may run into your eyes when you get wet.  Also applying sunscreen on the backs of your legs may cause you to slip around in the boat.  Protect your forehead, face and back of neck with a hat secured by a hat clip.

You’ll meet your trip leader at your trip’s designated meeting place and time. He or she will collect your release forms, distribute life jackets and wetsuits, if you rent them from us, and invite everyone to join him or her on our shuttle bus.

After a fun shuttle ride, we arrive at our riverside raft “put-in” location where the trip leader will issue you a paddle and (if you are on a Class IV+ or V trip) a helmet. You will then listen to our 30-40 minute instructional “safety talk” about how you, your paddle crew and your guide will work together as a team on the water. Then you and your friends will head to your boat!

On most of our trips we run paddle boats or oar-paddle combination boats. You will be paddling with the rest of your crew to power your boat down the river. The boats typically seat six to eight people and a guide. Before you leave shore, our guides will instruct you on efficient paddling technique. Once in the boat, your crew will push off on the water where your guide will give you further instruction on how to follow his or her speed and turning commands. Then you’ll head down river to make some wonderful memories!

It’s easy! Our experienced guides will teach you the basics including everything from how to hold your paddle, how to turn the boat, how to stop or pick up speed and what to do if you fall out. We make sure you are comfortable, relaxed and having fun from start to finish.

Guiding rafts is more difficult, and we offer white water guide schools that will give you the basic skills you’ll need to start running rivers on your own, or for guiding commercially. Click here for more information on our annual guide schools.

Rafting is thrilling, exciting, wet, wild and incredibly fun. That said, as with all outdoor adventure activities, rafting involves an element of inherent risk. Our guides are trained to minimize these risks, and, statistically, rafting is far safer than many other outdoor sports. The most common injury on most rafting trips is sunburn, and most other injuries occur on land, especially when getting into and out of the boats.

About the guides

Guests often ask if it is okay to leave a gratuity for their guide at the end of the trip. If you believe your guide was exceptional, you should feel free to give him/her a token of your appreciation. A typical gratuity is between 10% and 15% of the trip fare, and guides are appreciative of any amount.  Our guides typically pool their gratuities at the end of each trip.

Our guides are a fantastic group of outdoor professionals that have a passion for the Kern River and love sharing the experience of a whitewater trip with our guests. Some of them have moved on to other professions but still continue to guide part-time. Our guides are expertly trained boaters and hold certifications in First Aid and Swift Water Rescue. Many have advanced Wilderness First Aid and Swift Water training. Our guides are friendly, entertaining, knowledgeable and a joy to be around.

Registration

Make reservations early in the year! Because space is limited, and some trips fill up more than six months in advance, it is best to make reservations as early as possible. However, if you should wish to join a trip on short notice, please give us a call, there may be an opening.

Call to reserve, it’s easy!

  1. Call 800-861-6553 to reserve your adventure activity or camp site(s).
  2. Make initial payment, to reach us within 10 days of reservation.
  3. Make final payment, to reach us 30 days before your trip date.
  4. Adventure, Relax, Enjoy with MRA!

Reservation Details
MRA must enforce a strict cancellation policy considering that we incur substantial expenses before each trip departs and, in the event of late cancellations, can not recover costs, nor can we make refunds. We operate under stringent federal regulations, which restrict the number of guests per trip and the number of trips per season. Guides and other personnel employed by Mountain & River Adventures are not authorized to make or promise trip refunds or trip credits. Such determinations can only be made by company management.

Mountain & River Adventures reserves the right to refuse service to any individual or group. Reservations are not considered confirmed until MRA receives a fully executed copy of our Cancellation policy.

Click here to read the entire Cancellation policy.
Click here to see our Campground Cancellation policy.

We are able to offer discount to groups of 12 or more on Upper Kern, Thunder Run, and Lower Kern trips on every day except Saturday. On the Forks of the Kern, the 15th spot is free when the entire trip is booked. We are able to offer discounts to non-profit groups with a minimum of 10 participants on Upper or Lower stretches who are able to start Monday through Thursday. Our only requirement for these discounts is that payment is made with one check or credit card.

It is not a bad idea to purchase travel insurance when you make your reservation. Although cancellations are rare, our cancellation policy is firm and travel insurance may protect you from a loss of fees paid in the event of an unexpected cancellation. Talk with your local travel agent about purchasing this type of insurance, or consider using a company like TravelGuard.com.

Every 12th Person…

Every 12th person goes FREE on most of our Kern River rafting trips! (except Saturdays on the Lower Kern)

MRA Specials
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Click here to see registration details. All activities are subject to a 3% land use fee.