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.

Which trip is best for me? Use our Trip Picker tool to help you find the best trip for your group.

If you’re looking for a one-day rafting trip, and the Upper Kern is in season, then we typically recommend our Full Day Upper Kern. If your schedule only allows you to go later in the Summer, then either our Big Five or Camp Run are great day trips as well. These run injunction with our Two Day Lower Kern rafting trips, so it’s a good idea to inquire with our office to make sure we have space. In general, once the Lower Kern is releasing water, our most sought after rafting trip is our Two Day Lower Kern.