Kern River Rapid Ratings

Ry taking a look at Class VI rapid Royal Flush before portaging it.

One item that makes the Kern River such a popular rafting destination is its diverse range of whitewater. There really is something for everyone. This post breaks down how each rapid is rated, and where it’s located.

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Looking to learn more about these rapids? Different Kern River rapids open and close depending on water levels. Too high, and some sections are a no-go. Too low, and some sections simply don’t have enough water in them. The guidebooks below go into the details.

Class VI

Considered unrunnable, we portage around these enormous rapids. On the Kern River, we have three Class VI rapids. This list starts with the furthest upstream rapids and moves down.

  1. Upper Salmon Falls. Located on the Chamise Gorge section of the Upper Kern.
  2. Lower Salmon Falls. Located on the Chamise Gorge section of the Upper Kern.
  3. Royal Flush. Located on the Miracle Run on the Lower Kern.

Class V

Class V is the highest-rated whitewater that commercial rafting companies will run and is suited for experienced paddlers looking for big thrills. On the Kern River, Class V rapids are found on the Thunder Run section of the Upper Kern, and the Forks of the Kern. There are no Class V rapids on the Lower Kern river. This list starts with the furthest upstream rapids and moves down.

  1. Lower Freeman. Located on the Forks of the Kern. The first Class V rapid on the Forks comes in at mile 3 on the trip.
  2. Vortex. Located on the Forks of the Kern. The hardest rapid on the Forks, this is considered V+ and is usually portaged unless the flows are perfect.
  3. Gortex. Located on the Forks of the Kern. Located just below Vortex, you could say it’s a continuation of the Class V above, but it’s a bear in itself.
  4. The Gauntlet. Located on the Forks of the Kern. Appropriately named.
  5. Confusion Rapid. Located on the Forks of the Kern. Also appropriately named.
  6. Carson Falls. Located on the Forks of the Kern. The last rapid of the Forks isn’t just a Class V, it’s also a waterfall, making it the perfect ending for this wilderness trip.
  7. Sock ‘Em Dog. Located on the Thunder Run section of the Upper Kern. Look out for the Dog Hole!
  8. The Flume. Located on the Thunder Run section of the Upper Kern. The line feels wrong because the key to this rapid is less momentum the better.
  9. Fender Bender. Located on the Thunder Run section of the Upper Kern. Avoid the big holes in this roadside Class V.

Class IV

You could argue that the Class IV rapids is what makes the Kern River famous. An assortment of Class IV rapids is found on most trips and is available to most ages (12 and higher). This list starts with the furthest upstream rapids and moves down.

  1. Upper Freeman. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  2. Wrapid. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  3. Needlerock. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  4. Downhill. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  5. Slalom. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  6. Little Bean. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  7. Big Bean. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  8. The Maze. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  9. Rincon. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  10. Metamorphosis. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  11. Basalt. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  12. Chaos. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  13. Respect. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  14. Maytag. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  15. Limestone Rapid. Located on the Limestone section of the Upper Kern.
  16. Helicopter Rock. Located on the Chamise Gorge section of the Upper Kern.
  17. Sex Rapid. Located on the Chamise Gorge section of the Upper Kern.
  18. Violence Rapid. Located on the Chamise Gorge section of the Upper Kern.
  19. Satan’s Slot. Located on the Chamise Gorge section of the Upper Kern.
  20. Airplane Turn. Located on the Chamise Gorge section of the Upper Kern.
  21. Black Bottom Falls. Located on the Chamise Gorge section of the Upper Kern.
  22. No Time. Located on the Chamise Gorge section of the Upper Kern.
  23. Bombay. Located on the Ant Canyon section of the Upper Kern.
  24. Adam Ant. Located on the Ant Canyon section of the Upper Kern.
  25. Screaming Right Turn. Located on the Ant Canyon section of the Upper Kern.
  26. Pulling Teeth. Located on the Ant Canyon section of the Upper Kern.
  27. Corral Creek. Located on the Ant Canyon section of the Upper Kern.
  28. Squashed Paddler. Located on the Thunder Run section of the Upper Kern.
  29. Golf Course. Located on the Thunder Run section of the Upper Kern.
  30. Hospital Rock. Located on the Thunder Run section of the Upper Kern.
  31. Cables. Located on the Cables section of the Upper Kern.
  32. The Wall. Located on the Cables section of the Upper Kern.
  33. Tombstone. Located on the Cables section of the Upper Kern.
  34. Tequila Chute. Located on the Cables section of the Upper Kern.
  35. White Maidens. Located on the Miracle section of the Lower Kern.
  36. Sundown. Located on the Miracle section of the Lower Kern.
  37. Powerful Possum. Located on the Miracle section of the Lower Kern.
  38. Hari Kari. Located on the Big Five section of the Lower Kern.
  39. Horseshoe Falls. Located on the Big Five section of the Lower Kern.
  40. ERB. Located on the Big Five section of the Lower Kern.
  41. Pinball. Located on the Big Five section of the Lower Kern.

Class III

Class III rapids are open to the younger passengers, 8 years old and up. That doesn’t mean they’re not exciting though, as you’ll find them on all sections of the Kern River, including the Forks of the Kern. This list starts with the furthest upstream rapids and moves down.

  1. Welcome to the Forks. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  2. Walking Tall. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  3. Surf’s Up. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  4. Durwood Wall. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  5. Durwood Rapid. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  6. Bridgework. Located on the Forks of the Kern.
  7. Brush Creek. Located on the Limestone section of the Upper Kern.
  8. Joe’s Diner. Located on the Limestone section of the Upper Kern.
  9. Betty’s Bakery. Located on the Limestone section of the Upper Kern.
  10. Rock ‘n Roll. Located on the Chamise Gorge section of the Upper Kern.
  11. Gold Ledge. Located on the Ant Canyon section of the Upper Kern.
  12. Upper Springhill. Located on the Ant Canyon section of the Upper Kern.
  13. Lower Springhill. Located on the Ant Canyon section of the Upper Kern.
  14. Powerhouse Rapid. Located on the Cables or Powerhouse section of the Upper Kern.
  15. Big Daddy. Located on the Lickety Split section of the Upper Kern.
  16. Ewings Rapid. Located on the Lickety Split section of the Upper Kern.
  17. Wallow Rock. Located on the Jungle Run section of the Lower Kern.
  18. Wasco’s Wash. Located on the Jungle Run section of the Lower Kern.
  19. It’s a Dilly. Located on the Jungle Run section of the Lower Kern.
  20. Oscar’s Nightmare. Located on the Jungle Run section of the Lower Kern.
  21. Hobo Rapid. Located on the Jungle Run section of the Lower Kern.
  22. Miracle Rapid. Located on the Jungle Run section of the Lower Kern.
  23. Arnie’s Armpit. Located on the Miracle section of the Lower Kern.
  24. Silver Staircase. Located on the Miracle section of the Lower Kern.
  25. Buffalo Run. Located on the Miracle section of the Lower Kern.
  26. False Flush. Located on the Miracle section of the Lower Kern.
  27. Taco Stand. Located on the Miracle section of the Lower Kern.
  28. Fish Trap. Located on the Miracle section of the Lower Kern.
  29. Delonegha. Located on the Miracle section of the Lower Kern.
  30. Surprise Rapid. Located on the Big Five section of the Lower Kern.
  31. ERB, Part A. Located on the Big Five section of the Lower Kern.

Class II

There are dozens and dozens of unnamed Class II rapids on the Kern. Here are the ones do have names. This list starts with the furthest upstream rapids and moves down.

  1. Bridge Rapid. Located on the Limestone section of the Upper Kern.
  2. Farview. Located on the Fairview section of the Upper Kern.
  3. Jungle Boogie. Located on the Fairview section of the Upper Kern.
  4. The Fence. Located on the Fairview section of the Upper Kern.
  5. Buzzards. Located on the Cables section of the Upper Kern.
  6. Milly’s Hole. Located on the Cables section of the Upper Kern.
  7. Enchanted Forest. Located on the Cables section of the Upper Kern.
  8. Little Momma. Located on the Lickety Split section of the Upper Kern.
  9. Straight Shot. Located on the Lickety Split section of the Upper Kern.
  10. Freight Train. Located on the Lickety Split section of the Upper Kern.
  11. Riverside Park Rapid. Located on the Lickety Split section of the Upper Kern.
  12. Four Iron. Located on the Cemetery section of the Upper Kern.
  13. Putter Rapid. Located on the Cemetery section of the Upper Kern.
  14. Sun Up. Located on the Miracle section of the Lower Kern.
  15. Razor Rock. Located on the Miracle section of the Lower Kern.