Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two days rafting on the Lower Kern River

Next available two-day Lower Kern weekend trip date: May 8th and 9th. Call us at 1-800-323-4234 to book this trip.

The Lower Kern River, California's best two-day rafting trip, is open for business starting this weekend. 20 miles of rafting nirvana is a hard thing to waste, but with great flows having held steady for the past two weeks it seems that has been the case. Well, up until now. Our camp is up and running and we are now offering trips on the famous Lower Kern.

And, it looks like we're the only ones doing it. Outfitters are used to opening the Lower Kern starting in late May or early June. Not this year. We've been watching the gauge and it appears that the early-season water is here to stay. So if you want something really different, join us on the Lower Kern River in May.

Not sure camping is for you? Our campground is private and luxurious. We give our customers thick sleeping pads and provide you with sleeping decks. Camping has never been more comfortable. Still not sure? Check out our camp photos on Flickr.

The Nitty-Gritty of our two-day Lower Kern trips:

Sunday to Thursday launches: $348 adult / $313.20 youth
Friday Launches: $378 adult / $340.20 youth
Saturday launches: $408 adult and youth

Meeting time is 9:30 AM at our rafting center the day of the launch. Click here for the trip details PDF. We provide all meals starting with lunch the first day and ending with lunch the second day. Our bus will take you from our rafting center to the river and from the take-out back to the rafting center. Parking at our rafting center is free.

For additional information, visit our Lower Kern rafting page.

Next available two-day Lower Kern weekend trip date: May 8th and 9th. Call us at 1-800-323-4234 to book this trip.

Upper Kern River Rafting Information

The Upper Kern River offers the best road-accessible class IV-V rafting trips in California. There are a variety of different sections that we run. Most of our trips are full day trips and meet at 8:30 AM at our Rafting Center. From there we load up on the bus and head upstream through the town of Kernville.

Over this past winter we've designed maps for the Upper, Lower, and Forks of the Kern. Click on the map thumbnail below to view a larger version.

Our guides will choose the sections to be run, but most trips feature the famous "Limestone" section of the Upper Kern. This is the furthest upstream trip one can do (other than the Forks of the Kern) and also serves up some of the best whitewater on the entire Kern River.

Here are some shots of rapids on the Upper Kern River:

Limestone Rapid:



Black Bottom Falls:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Forks Road Currently Closed Due to Big Snow

Access to the trail head for the Forks of the Kern will be delayed this year. Due to the high volume of snow this winter and spring (the storms still haven't released their grasp on the Southern Sierra), Lloyd Meadow Road is still closed and will remain so for up to two weeks. The photo above shows a portion of the occluded road. Word on the street is that there are drifts as high as 8 feet high blocking access. We suppose this is a small price to pay for a promising season ahead. We'll keep you posted as to the road's condition and expected opening day.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

California's best Class V whitewater rivers will have exceptional rafting seasons

Higher than average snow packs will lengthen rafting seasons for California's top two Class V river trips.

Two of California’s best class V whitewater rafting rivers will have longer seasons than normal due to larger than average snow packs. Both the Forks of the Kern in Southern California and the California-Salmon in Northern California are un-dammed, free-flowing rivers, which rely solely on melting snow to provide adequate water flow for rafts. The two rivers are often touted as the best class V runs in the West.

The Forks of the Kern River is the southern-most drainage of the Sierra Mountains and is the closest multi-day class V river trip to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Diego. For 20 miles the river roars through a tight and steep canyon deep within the Golden Trout Wilderness Area. “The Forks of the Kern is often considered the premier wilderness class V rafting trip in the United States,” commented Keith “Luther” Stephens, general manager for Kern River Outfitters. “It’s everything a great river trip should be: the river flows through a gorgeous canyon, there are numerous great side-hikes, and the whitewater can’t be beat.”

Snow pack figures for the Forks of the Kern are at 120% of normal. “Our Forks season is dictated by the amount of snow in the southern Sierras,” Stephens says. With the snow pack higher than normal, Kern River Outfitters has begun scheduling trips for as late as July 15th, about a month later than last year’s final trip.

The California Salmon River is located in far northern California - one of the most isolated and wild areas of the state. Cutting between the Salmon and Trinity Alps, the river drains moderate-elevation, high-precipitation areas; including the Sawtooth Glacier, the only glacier in California's coastal range. The run combines beautiful, lush coastal scenery, an intimate, marble-smooth, granite inner gorge, endless waterfalls cascading in, emerald-green waters, tons of wildlife, and amazing class IV-V pool-drop whitewater. Momentum River Expeditions combines most Salmon trips with the rarely run class V Scott River, creating one of the ultimate class V adventures in the country.

Rafters take on the class V "Gaping Maw" on the Cal-Salmon River:

Snow pack is not measured for the Salmon drainage; however a good estimate can be made with nearby snow measurements and information from local rangers and backcountry users. Snow pack on the California Salmon is estimated to be around 200% of normal and local backcountry skiers are reporting more snow than they have seen in years. As a result of the high snow pack, Momentum River Expeditions expects to run Cal-Salmon trips into late June.

"Many people don’t realize that California has some of the best and most accessible class V whitewater in the world – there are very few places that even come close,” comments Pete Wallstrom, owner of Momentum River Expeditions. “If there ever was a ‘perfect’ year to see these rivers, this is the one.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Kern River Outfitters Offers “Free” Rafting Trips

Hot off the press:

Kern Trip Fare Can Be Applied to an Idaho Rafting Vacation

Kern River Outfitters, Southern California’s premier whitewater rafting company, announced today a joint promotion with Idaho River Journeys to provide its Kern customers with an offer they can’t refuse: guests who take a trip on the Kern River any time this summer can apply 100% of the cost toward a 2010 rafting vacation on Idaho’s Middle Fork or Main Salmon River.

“Customers who take advantage of this promotion will essentially enjoy a free river trip on the Kern,” observes Keith “Luther” Stephens, general manager of Kern River Outfitters. “For people who enjoy rafting and adventure travel, this is the deal of a lifetime. We think we’ll have a lot of takers. When folks come off a Kern rafting trip, most are excitedly talking about and planning their next river journey. A family river trip in Idaho is the perfect summer vacation, and is exactly what guests are looking for: more rafting, more days, more fun.”

A week-long rafting vacation on Idaho’s Middle Fork and Main Salmon offers something for everyone: mile-upon-mile of crystal-clear water teeming with wild trout, exhilarating whitewater, stunning scenery, sandy beaches, breathtaking waterfalls, magnificent hiking, soothing natural hot springs, Native American pictographs, a “pampered” camping experience with professional guides who prepare food to rival your favorite restaurant, and more stars than your kids can count. It’s no wonder the Middle Fork and Main Salmon are considered America’s best family adventure vacation destinations. For more information, visit, or call 1-888-997-8399.

Kern River Outfitters offers half-day to three-day trips ranging in difficulty from Class III to Class V on three sections of the Kern River: the Upper, the Lower and the Forks. Just a few hours from most Southern California cities, the Kern River is a popular summer vacation destination getaway for first-timers and families, as well as for experienced river rafters. Prices range from $115 to $998 per person, depending on the length of the trip and the date of departure. For more information and details on this limited-time promotional offer, visit, or call 1-800-323-4234.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

First Lower Kern rafting trip slated for May 1st

For the past two weeks flows on the Lower Kern River have been at great levels for whitewater rafting. We've held our breaths and waited to see if flows would hold or fall and it's become apparent that the great water levels are here to stay.

We are now officially opening the Lower Kern River to rafting on May 1st. This is the earliest date we have ever offered California's most popular two-day rafting trip. Be part of rafting history on the Kern River by joining us for our earliest Lower Kern opening day trip ever.

The Lower Kern River features the best class III and IV whitewater rafting in California. Our two-day trips spend the night at the best and most luxurious private camp (see photos here) on the river. It is located approximately half-way through the 20 mile run which gives our customers two 10 mile days of excellent rafting.

Give us a call today to reserve space on our May 1st/2nd two-day Lower Kern rafting trip at 1-800-323-4234.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Welcome to Arctic Blast: April, 2010

The Kern River drainage is being hit with a storm that tastes like December and is dropping a reported two feet of snow high in the mountains. It started yesterday around noon, about 30 minutes after our whitewater school pushed off onto the Lower Kern River, and has continued through the night and into this morning.

Welcome to Arctic Blast 2010 - natures way of telling us that winter really "ain't over 'til it's over" and that we are now destined for one of the most memorable seasons of Kern River rafting we've seen in a long, long, long time ("icing" on the cake you might say).

But don't let this gorilla of a storm fool you; current predictions show great rafting weather from here on out.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lower Kern River reaches milestone levels - highest since 1998.

Releases from Lake Isabella went up and over 1,000 cubic feet per second yesterday - earlier than the milestone has been reached in the past decade.

The Lower Kern River, fed by releases out of Lake Isabella, reached flows of over 1,000 cubic feet per second yesterday morning. Yesterday’s abnormally high release for this time of year capped-off a two-week span in which the outflow of Lake Isabella has increased daily. It also marked the first time in 12 years that the Lower Kern has reached the milestone this early in the year.

Cubic feet per second (CFS) is a common way of measuring water volume in a river. It refers to the amount of water flowing past any particular river point for every second. The Lower Kern River is considered "runnable" in a raft at flows above 500 CFS.

Whitewater rafting outfitters rely on the outflow from Lake Isabella for their Lower Kern rafting trips. “It pretty much dictates our season,” said Keith “Luther” Stephens, general manager for Kern River Outfitters. For the Lower Kern to see releases in excess of 1,000 CFS this early in the season indicates a very good rafting season ahead. “We’ve pushed our opening day trip nearly three weeks ahead of when it launched last year,” noted Stephens – “and with the snow pack we have, the season should go into September.”

Kern River Outfitters has been rafting on the Kern River since 1980. With a staff of over 50 professional river guides and support personnel, the company and its affiliate, Idaho & Oregon River Journeys, run one- to six-day river trips in California, Oregon and Idaho. For more information, visit or call 1-800-323-4234.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Kern River Festival

This past weekend was the Kern River Festival and the town of Kernville came to life with kayakers, spectators, vendors, and locals all having a great time. The river was spotted with kayaks and other lesser-known crafts, especially during the first ever "Hooligan Race". Contestants in the Hooligan Race were to make a craft that could float built out of anything but a boat. As you might guess, the Hooligan Race was great to watch as a spectator but maybe even more fun to participate in.

Here are some of our favorite photos from the Kern River Festival. We hope to see everyone back next year!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Opening day for Upper Kern River rafting set for April 26th

The closest rafting to Los Angeles is going to have great water in 2010.

April 26th marks the opening day for Kern River Outfitters on Southern California’s Upper Kern River. Fed by snow melt off the Southern Sierra Mountains, the Upper Kern River is one of the most popular one-day whitewater rafting stretches in California and is the closest class II to class V run to Los Angeles.

The Upper Kern’s water supply comes from natural run-off – not dam release – so flows fluctuate more widely than its downstream counterpart, the Lower Kern, which is fed by Lake Isabella. As temperatures rise in the early Spring, the Upper Kern turns from a calm trickle to a raging river.

Gary Thornbrugh, a guide of 21 years on the Kern River, knows that this coming season is going to be outstanding. “2010 has potential to be a season to remember. Current snow pack in the Kern River drainage is up and over 100% of normal,” said Thornbrugh. When asked why he returns year after year, Thornbrugh said, “The whitewater on the Upper Kern River is a river-runners dream. Over the course of a season the river constantly changes flow, which makes it a different ride every time. It’s always new and exciting and never grows old.”

Thornbrugh guides for Kern River Outfitters, an outfit that offers daily launches on the Upper Kern River. Their schedule for the Upper Kern goes into mid-July this year, which, according to Keith “Luther” Stephens, their General Manager, was not even a possibility last year because of the lower snow-pack.

The Kern River is often touted as the best whitewater rafting river in California. Kern River Outfitters offers rafting trips from two hours to three days in length, with class II to class V rapids on the Lower, Upper, and Forks of the Kern. For additional information on rafting the Kern River, contact Kern River Outfitters at 1-800-323-4234 or visit

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Luth's First Tweet

Big changes are happening here at Kern River Outfitters. We've got all new lifejackets en route, a freshly painted flag pole, and moved our freezer from one end of the warehouse to the other. And, as if these changes weren't big enough on their own, our General Manager, Keith "Luther" Stephens, made his first "tweet" today.

With Dawn and Will by his side, Luth typed out his first words and proudly hit "tweet".

That's right: you can now follow the pulse of KRO via the social media giant Twitter. We'll be tweeting daily right from the heart of our office.

Luth, proudly dropping into the Twitter world:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Most recent Sierra storms further boost rafting outlook

Spring snowfall bodes well for 2010 rafting season.

Weather systems that came through the Southern Sierra mountains on Monday dumped four to six inches of new snow making the outlook for the 2010 whitewater rafting season even better than projected. Precipitation above the Kern River, the most popular Southern California rafting destination, was significant and another storm system is expected late this week.

“We’re looking great”, said Luther Stephens, General Manager at Kern River Outfitters. “We were already expecting a good year and these storms will definitely make for an outstanding season.”

The Kern River is the furthest south of any Sierra river and is known for a wide variety of rafting runs and trip lengths. Typically, outfitters offer one to three day trips on various segments of the Kern. The season runs from mid-April through September.

When asked about the impact of the recession on rafting bookings, Stephens said, “Great water always trumps the economy. It is going to be a fabulous year.”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

After The Storm

The recent spate of storms have left us wondering where spring went, but we can't help but be excited about the still growing snow pack. At over 109% of normal, we are looking forward to a long, fun Upper, Forks, and Lower Kern season ahead of us. Yesterday, the Kern River Valley was hammered by yet another big winter storm, but this morning, the glory of the Spring of 2010 was evident everywhere. An epic season is in the wings.

Kern River Valley Student Community Service Program Celebrates 18 Years

Fifty enthusiastic seventh and eighth grade students from South Fork Middle School will participate in an innovative, educationally focused community service program from May 3rd to May 7th. The program is sponsored by Kern River Outfitters, Sequoia National Forest, California Land Management and Mountain & River Adventures and focuses on developing teamwork and leadership skills and introduces teens to the value and rewards of serving their community.

2010 marks the 18th year of this nationally recognized program. The curriculum includes student service projects including erosion control, stream restoration and trail building, hands-on science and social studies curriculum, and adventure challenge/leadership activities such as river rafting and climbing. Over 1,300 students have participated in the program since its inception. The program was honored with a ‘Spirit of the Land’ award from the U.S. Olympic Organizing Committee and a Service Award from America Outdoors Association. Sequoia National Forest estimates that the value of the work that the students have completed is in excess of $80,000.

"The students really get a lot out of the program," comments Jim Ritter, President of Kern River Outfitters and co-director of the program. "We provide hands on experiences and some adventurous challenges for these students. Throughout the week you can see the kids’ work hard and their knowledge increase."

Kern River Outfitters has been rafting on the Kern River since 1980. With a staff of over 50 professional river guides and support personnel, the company and its affiliate, Idaho & Oregon River Journeys, run one- to six-day river trips in California, Oregon and Idaho. For more information, visit or call 1-800-323-4234.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Kern River Rapid Heartbeat

"Kern River ride will give you a rapid heartbeat"

San Diego Union - Tribune

For the past two days we've received many calls and emails about a Kern River rafting article in the San Diego Union - Tribune that came out on Saturday, April 10th. Thank you all for getting back in touch and wanting to get on the river. For those of you who haven't seen the article yet you can check it out here.

The whitewater itch is here. Our returning guides are beginning to show their faces at our warehouse, the first truck load of camping equipment has been taken to our Lower Camp, and all of our boats have been polished off and are ready for the introductory splashes of spring.

Before we know it we'll be looking back at another tremendous season on the Kern River. The memories of river trips never fade and the bond of friendships made while on the river can be lifelong. The winter gives us time to relive and revisit those memories and friends but the spring and summer are the only times to create them. Don't let the rafting season slip by without visiting the Kern River. Give us a call today at 1-800-323-4234 or visit us online at to begin planning your trip.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Star Night at Lower Kern Camp on Wednesdays

New this season, KRO is offering "Star Night" at our evening campfire on our two-day Lower Kern river trips that launch on Wednesdays.

After a day of rafting and a delicious dinner at camp, join our guides for an informal and fun evening session of Astronomy, Legend, and the Beauty of the Stars. The best of the deep sky objects hang out during the summer months and we will join them as we caravan together from one constellation to another. We will gather close and enjoy the thousand stars, planets, a spiral galaxy and if lucky a bright comet or two.

City lights can overwhelm the delicate glow of nebulae and star clusters including even the brightness of the Milky Way. We have found some of the best stargazing opportunities at our secluded campsite on the Lower Kern River. There are a few Wednesdays when the moon will be close to full and stargazing will not be at its brightest. Check with our office for the very best dates.

Besides viewing the Celestial Entertainment you will enjoy the cozy comforts of our semi-developed Lower Kern Camp. At our riverside camp we have private sleeping decks around the site and provide every guest with a comfortable, thick mattress. We're the only outfit on the Kern River to provide this luxury.

Two-Day Lower Kern Trip Wednesday/Thursday: $348 adult; $313.20 youth.
Group Rates and Family Rates
for Wednesday/Thursday trips
Book Your Star Night Trip
Call to speak directly to our Reservations Office: 1-888-997-8399