The Kern River is situated to the North East of Bakersfield, California, and is a couple of hours drive from LA. Death Valley lies only 50 miles to the east of its headwaters, which drain the western slopes of Mount Whitney. The Kern River valley was originally home to indigenous Tübatulabal and Kawaiisu people. It is one of California’s oldest rivers and was established more than 80 million years ago when the Sierra was a volcanic range. Gold was discovered near the valley in 1853 leading to the Kern River Gold Rush and the founding of Keyesville.
The North Fork flows through Sequoia National Park and the Sequoia National Forest, past post-pile formations, spiked-granite protrusions, and sharp rock ledges. It is the longest river in the Sierra Nevada with around 10 sections of whitewater to paddle with difficulties ranging from Class I to VI. Possibly the most famous section is the Class V “Forks of the Kern” section, with its pristine mountain scenery and steep technical rapids.
The Kern’s watershed is the largest in the Sierra and so high, the river is fed by snowmelt until early July in an average year, but often into August. Every April, kayakers from all over the country and even the world descent upon Kernville for Kern River Festival; a whitewater festival including a multitude of fun competitions and races for whitewater fans, including an extreme race on Brush Creek, a slalom race, a triathlon (run, pedal, paddle) and a SUP race. They even have a kid’s sidewalk art competition.