What’s the difference between the Upper and Lower Kern?

The Upper and Lower Kern are separated by Isabella Lake. The Upper Kern flows into the lake, raising its level during the spring and early summer. The Lower Kern is fed by the water released from Isabella Lake, giving us raft-able flows through the end of summer.

Keep in mind, whether you’re scheduled for an Upper or Lower Kern rafting trip, they all meet and return to the same location, our Rafting Center.

The Upper Kern is a snowmelt, runoff based river. This means that as the weather warms and the snowpack thaws, this runoff is what we raft on. This is why the Upper Kern has an earlier rafting season of early April through July. The runoff generated by the melt is then captured in Isabella Lake, which is then stored in the reservoir until needed.

The Lower Kern is a regulated release. This water is used many miles downstream for agriculture in Bakersfield. As the weather warms up, more water is needed to keep crops healthy. This regulated release is excellent for rafting because it means our season can go for many months longer than what a non-regulated river would offer.

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