Forks of the Kern FAQs

This is our common questions page for our Forks of the Kern trips, which is different than our regular FAQs rafting page. Keep in mind, this FAQ page is geared towards commercial rafting. If you are a private boater and you are looking for Forks of the Kern information, we suggest visiting this webpage.

2021 Update

Sent to our subscribers on 3/17/21

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It is with great sadness that I write this email in regards to our Forks of the Kern season. Due to the impacts from the CastleFire/Sequoia Complex Fire that burned in this area last year, the Forks of the Kern will not be open to the public this year. This means we will not be able to offer this spectacular trip this season. Here is a link to the Forest Order: FOREST ORDER NO. 0513-21-08.
I will keep you on our mailing list for next season and we hope the damage to the area is not catastrophic. 
We will be offering trips on the Upper and Lower Kern this season and plan to kick the season off on April 10th. We expect peak flows on the Upper Kern in early May with the season on this section ending Memorial Day Weekend. We will kick off our Lower Kern season on June 1st with peak flows expected during the month of June. 
Reservations can be made online at kernrafting.com or by calling our office. 
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Matt Adkisson

General Manager
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How does the interest list work?

By joining our Forks of the Kern interest list you are ensuring that you receive updates before any other outlet, including our social media and this website.

March 1st – First Glance: On March 1st, We send out our annual “First Glance” Forks of the Kern season update. This information includes the initial season outlook and our first estimate at possible launch dates. No reservations are accepted at this time.
April 1 – Second Look: On April 1, our second email is sent and is similar to the first but has refined date windows. No reservations are accepted at this time.
Variable Timing – Third Email: Finally, our third Forks of the Kern update email will have confirmed dates and will allow you to schedule a time to be interviewed / phone screened by our General Manager to confirm a reservation.
Additional Emails: If our season allows dates to open up, we will send an update to subscribers.

It is important to know that you do not have to be on our interest list to book this trip. However, subscribers are far more likely to successfully make a reservation as they receive information before any other outlet.

Each email will be posted on this page (above) 24 hours after it has been sent out to subscribers.

What does the pre-trip timeline look like?

Generally speaking, the reservation and the pre-trip process look like the following:

  • Available trip launch dates are confirmed by us.
  • You schedule a phone screening with our General Manager and once passed, you book the trip. (More on this below.)
  • Trip details are sent to you.
  • The evening before your trip launch we hold our pre-trip meeting at our Rafting Center. Your attendance is mandatory.
  • We hold our Class V Paddler’s Test. (More on this below.)
  • You pass the test and we drive to the put-in and launch the trip.

Why is phone screening necessary?

We phone screen to help ensure that participants are in good physical health and to minimize trip misconceptions. At the end of the call, if both you and our General Manager feel that you are a good fit for the trip, you will be given the option to make a reservation. Full payment is due at the time of booking. Our cancellation policy can be found here.

Please keep in mind, that trip participation is still contingent on you passing our Class V Paddlers Test, which is described below.

What is the Class V Paddlers test?

Our Class V Paddler’s Test is conducted either the evening before your trip launch or the morning of. It depends on daylight and Trip Leader preference. Either way, the test is the same. This evaluation is not considered hard for those in good physical health, and is not based on strength, but endurance. In full river gear (helmet, PFD, wetsuit) you will run a quarter-mile, jump into a Class II rapid, safely navigate it, and catch an eddy at the bottom of the rapid.

What is considered a failure of the Class V Paddlers test?

  • Having to be rescued at the bottom of the rapid with a throw bag.
  • Not having your gear adjusted properly before entering the water. An example is having a loose fitting PFD.
  • Not following the instructions given by the instructor, i.e. not swimming out into the current far enough, not swimming into the eddy at the bottom, not listening to instructions given from shore.

What happens if I fail the Class V Paddlers test?

You will not be issued a refund or trip credit as we are unable to re-sell the space on such short notice. We will register you on a different trip launching the same day, most likely our Two Day Lower Kern.

What if I cannot attend the pre-trip meeting?

It is mandatory. The reason for this meeting is to issue dry bags and gear for each participant to pack and have ready the night before. We meet early in the morning on the day of our launch which cannot be delayed by trying to pack in the parking lot.

Can I book for an entire group?

Yes. However, each participant is required to go through our phone screening process to ensure that each individual receives correct and accurate information regarding the trip. This can be scheduled as a conference call with the group.

What should I pack?

Keep in mind this is also answered in our Trip Details page, but we’ve summarized the information here. When packing for the Forks it is important to remember that everything you bring, you must carry down the 2.5 mile trail to the river. With this in mind, we recommend packing similar to how you would pack on a backpacking trip. The only gear provided is your rafting gear and dry bag. Here is an example list of what most of our guides pack on a trip:
  • Sleeping bag (lightweight and warm, 20 – 40 degree rating). Here are several options that fit this criteria: REI
  • Sleeping pad (lightweight and inflatable) Here are several options via REI
  • Good pair of sneakers or hiking boots for the trail down to the river
  • Hiking clothes (based on weather)
  • Layering/Camp clothes (long underwear, pants, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, puffy coat, outer shell, wool synthetic socks, and outer shell)
  • On water layers (synthetic long sleeve to wear under provided wetsuit, wool/synthetic socks or neoprene footwear)

When is the best time to go?

The best time to go changes every season. Snowpack and runoff dictate when our window to run the Forks is open. For example, our 2017 high water season we had all of our launches occur in August. In 2018 we ran our trips in early June, and 2019 we had a July and early August window. We consider our scheduling conservative, so generally speaking, if we have a launch open and available to book, then we believe that date is in the ballpark of ‘best’ time of the season.

When are your launch dates?

Our permit launch dates remain the same every year. April 21, 26. May 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 26, 31. June 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30. July 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30. August 4, 9, 14, 19, 24, 29.

How many people can you take per trip?

Forks of the Kern trips are intimate, with just 15 guests per launch.

What’s the minimum age for this trip?

Class V trips such as the Forks of the Kern have a minimum age of 16 years old.

Are group discounts available?

We do not offer discounts on this trip.