When is the best time of the year to take a Kern River rafting trip?

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.

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