Forks of the Kern
Pre-Trip Meeting Time & Location
Evening before your trip
Please check your email for specifics from your Trip Leader.
Trip Meeting Time
Day of your trip
The day before your trip, the lead guide of your trip will hold an informational meeting to discuss trip details and hand out waterproof bags for your gear. The pre-trip meeting will be held at 8:30 PM at a location to be determined in Kernville, CA.
Personal Information Form and Waiver
Each member of your party needs to completely fill out, read, understand and sign our Personal Information and Participant Agreement Form. A timely submission allows us to plan for any special needs. Joining a party? Please put the group organizers name in the “Name of Group Organizer” field located in the waiver.
Park your car at the back of the building and register inside. Although our parking lot is on private property, it is near a busy road. Do not leave valuables in your vehicle and make sure it is securely locked. No overnight camping is allowed at our parking area.
Lodging and Camping
The headwaters of the Kern are on the slopes of Mt. Whitney. By the time the river reaches our put-in at the confluence of the North Fork and the Little Kern, the water temperature is usually in the mid-forties. Use of a wetsuit and paddling jacket is included in your trip fee. We do not provide footwear and recommend neoprene or wool socks, which you should wear with sturdy sneakers. This is the best footwear for stability, moving around on rocky trails, and foot protection. Standard booties don’t provide enough support and protection when climbing over boulders. A full-length wetsuit is absolutely essential for your comfort and to avoid hypothermia, the dangerous lowering of the body’s temperature.
Well in advance of your trip, please return your completed Participant Agreement and provide the personal information requested. Remember to include your height, weight, and age.
On the morning of the trip, we meet at our Rafting Center in Wofford Heights at 7:00 am. After registering, we board our bus and drive to the nearby town of Kernville. We stop there to review safety issues relevant to running a river as challenging as the Forks, and to evaluate the ability of guests to deal with situations we might encounter. Paddlers will be asked to take our “Class V Paddler’s Evaluation”. This test will include basic swimming and safety exercises with a focus on stamina. After the test, we’ll re-board our bus for the 2-hour drive to Lloyd Meadows and the trailhead to the Forks. From there, we hike to the river.
The hike is downhill, switch-backing steadily, with a striking view of the canyon. You must carry your own gear, which usually weighs about thirty pounds. The trail is easy going, and the duffels Kern River Outfitters provides have convenient shoulder straps. Please bring only essential items, so that we can keep the weight of the boats to a minimum.
At the river put-in, you’ll meet the rest of the guides who have helped pack the boats down to the river by horseback the previous day. While the boats are readied and the equipment stowed, we’ll serve lunch. You’ll have a chance to pack items you’ll want during the day in waterproof containers. You’ll probably want to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and perhaps a camera. If you bring a camera, we recommend you obtain insurance for damage. We will also use this time to go over further safety and logistics concerns.
We start floating the river in the afternoon on the first day. During the second day, we start midmorning. All two days take us through some astounding rapids, all piled one on top of another. Freeman Creek, Vortex, Confusion, the Gauntlet, and Carson Falls are some of the highlights of this 22 mile stretch of river. We reach take-out mid- afternoon of the second day and usually have you back to the Rafting Center and your car by 5 PM.
On River Procedures
The Forks of the Kern is a snow-melt river subject to quick changes of high mountain weather conditions, and the water level can rise or fall significantly in a few hours. At some water levels, rapids such as Carson Falls and Vortex may be unsafe to run. At these times, the Trip Leader may elect to line or portage the boats and equipment around these spots or to have the guides row the boats through with no passengers in them. On most trips, there will be time for hikes up side canyons and streams. Fishing here is great. You can try your luck at our overnight camp and lunch stops. If you plan to fish, you must obtain a fishing license.
Our Kern River trips are fun, fast and challenging. To participate, you must be in good health. You may also need to perform certain physical activities. These include basic swimming, hiking in rugged or uneven terrain, climbing in and out of rafts and assisting in your rescue, if that becomes necessary. Please let us know when you return your Release Agreement if you have any health or dietary restrictions. We will gladly accommodate reasonable dietary restrictions with adequate advance notice.
We furnish rugged inflatable rafts, 12 to 16 feet in length. We provide accessory river equipment, life vests, first aid and safety supplies. Do not bring your own life vest. Ours are approved for rafting and we require that they are worn by guests. On most trips, the majority of passengers ride in paddle boats. A paddleboat is piloted by a guide, assisted by four to six passengers.
It is sometimes necessary to cancel or modify a trip because of unusual circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, we cannot be responsible for paying expenses other than refunding all or part of the fees paid to Kern River Outfitters. Determination of refunds (if any) will be made after reviewing trip details. Guides and other personnel employed by Kern River Outfitters are not authorized to make or promise trip refunds or trip credits. Such determinations can only be made by company officers.
Trip participants should understand that river trips involve known and unknown risks. Kern River Outfitters assumes no responsibility for injuries, death or loss/ damage to client ̇s property while on the river. All clients must sign a Release and Waiver Agreement expressly acknowledging these points. Kern River Outfitters assumes no responsibility for vehicles and/or the contents of vehicles parked during the trip.
Minimum age of 16 years old.
The minimum age on our Upper Kern trips is twelve years old. This age limit is in place for the safety of your child, the safety of our other guests and our guides.
If you bring alcohol on your trip, we ask that you drink in moderation and only while in camp in the evening. Consumption of alcohol is prohibited while rafting or prior to rafting for your safety and for the safety of your fellow guests and our guides.
All on-river meals are provided beginning with breakfast the first day and ending with lunch the last day. The food is fresh and hearty and our guides will prepare it for you.
For most of the summer, weather in the Kern region is very warm and sunny and you’ll be comfortable wearing light clothing. For early season trips, we sometimes require wetsuits. If wetsuits are required, we do not charge a rental fee.
While on the water, we require that helmets be worn by all Forks of the Kern guests.
Our guides are experienced skilled whitewater boaters. They are knowledgeable about canyon ecology and natural history. Should the need arise they are trained to administer First Aid.
On most trips, we capture photos of your raft. These are then uploaded and available for purchase at the conclusion of your trip.
The Forks of the Kern can experience cold, changeable, high mountain weather. Our experience has shown that fleece or wool clothing with thermal underwear provides the best all-weather comfort. Tents will be needed throughout April, May, and June.
Learn about our cancellation policy here. Notice must be made in writing.
Notice 30 days or more prior
$25 cancellation fee / person
Notice 29 to 14 days prior
$50 cancellation fee / person
Notice 14 days or less prior
We recommend you supplement personal insurance with travel insurance. Cancellation initiated by you may result in substantial loss of fees paid. Available insurance protects against the loss of deposits in the event you must cancel because of unforeseen circumstances.
Guests sometimes ask whether gratuities are appropriate. If you enjoyed your trip, please feel free to leave a tip with the Trip Leader. Guests typically leave 15% – 20% of the trip cost. Gratuities will be shared among all the guides on the trip.
Our trips are conducted under a permit issued by the U.S. Forest Service, Sequoia National Forest. Our permit is your assurance that Kern River Outfitters is legally operating on the river. Our operations and facilities are operated on a nondiscriminatory basis.
WHAT TO BRING
Windbreaker or Paddling Jacket.
Sleeping bag and ground cloth (must be polar guard type and compactly stuffable. Do not bring bulky cotton bags)
Air mattress or pad.
Thermal underwear, tops and bottoms.
Hiking or sturdy shoes for trail/camp.
Swimsuit or board shorts.
Visor or hats.
Strap to secure sunglasses.
Rain jacket and rain pants.
Change of clothing.
On-river footwear (neoprene socks and sneakers).
Fleece pullover or wool sweater.
Wool cap or hat.
Optional items might include reading material, sketch pad, field glasses, fishing equipment (rods in protective aluminum cases), camera, and personal beverages (in unbreakable containers). Do not bring radios or firearms.
Remember we carry everything with us. Pack light.