The Kern River is one of the logistically easiest runs in California. Highway 199 runs along most of the Upper Kern making shuttles sometimes shorter than the run itself and giving boaters multiple options for put-ins and take-outs. The Lower Kern flows away from the highway, but the shuttles are still very short, the roads are paved, and parking is convenient. There is even a park-and-play course in Kernville with a slalom course, play holes, and a nice 1/4 mile trail back up to the beginning so you can do it all over again. Logistics for the Forks of the Kern are much trickier, involving porters and a long hike in to the river, but it’s well worth the extra effort. On this page you will find just about everything you need to know about shuttles, camping, and permits.

Permits: A Forest Service Permit is required to run any section of the Kern River. The Forest Service office is located in Kernville on Whitney Road. There are several other Sequoia National Forest offices: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sequoia/contactus/. You will also need to obtain a fire permit from them if you are running the Forks of the Kern. Permits are $10 on the Forks and free for the Upper Kern and Lower Kern sections.

Overnight Trips: Camping is easy on any section of the Kern River. Unless you are running the Forks of the Kern, there is no need to bring your overnight gear along with you. Car camping is plentiful, although you may want to make a reservation at one of the many campsites in advance to secure your spot and avoid driving around. Kernville and nearby Lake Isabella have plenty of options for hotels if you’d rather go that route.

Shuttles: There are no specific shuttle services on the Kern River, however it is incredibly easy to shuttle your own vehicle, especially on the Upper Kern.

Porters: If you have decided on a private Forks of the Kern trip, you can hire porters to carry your gear in for you. Golden Trout Pack Trains are affordable and reliable. http://www.goldentroutpacktrains.com/

Forks of the Kern:
Put-in: Trailhead from Lloyds Meadow. Drive east on 199 from Kernville towards Johnsondale. After the bridge over the Kern River (this is your take-out) continue past the town of Johnsonale. 1/2 mile past the town turn right onto paved road (2S82) toward Lloyds Meadow and follow it for 15 miles. When you see a sign to “Forks of the Kern”, turn right onto this dirt road (20S67) and follow it for 3 miles until you see the trailhead.
Take-out: Johnsondale Bridge. About 1 mile east of Limestone Campground.

Upper Kern:
The Upper Kern is really just one long run with a few breaks such as the Fairview Dam. Since it is so easy to put-in and take-out on this stretch (Highway 199 runs alongside most of the way) it is typically divided up by level of difficulty. Therefore, the take-out for one run is the put-in for the next.

Put-in: Johnsondale Bridge
Take-out: Above Fairview Dam

Put-in: Below Fairview Dam and Bomb’s Away Rapid (Class V)
Take-out: Calkin’s Flat Campground

Put-in: Calkin’s Flat Campground
Take-out: Above Salmon Falls Rapid (Class VI)

Gold Ledge:
Put-in: Below Salmon Falls Rapid (Class VI)
Take-out: Camp 3 Campground
Can also run through Camp 3 and Powerhouse. There are no mandatory portages from this section down to the play park in Kernville.

Powerhouse & Camp 3 Runs:
Put-in: Camp 3 Campground
Take-out: River Park

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