This is often called the jungle run because of the number of trees in it - overhanging into the water in certain sections. However, it's got some really cool scenic granite in the first part. There are some places where it goes into narrow channels between large boulders or granite slopes, and there are often strainers on this run. Commercial companies raft this stretch, and along with the Forest Service try to keep the strainers cleaned out. However, in low-water years they do this much less because of the low flow, so strainers are more of an issue.
In the initial section, there are some Indian pictographs, and a great slide rock on river left. You can carry your boat up 25 or 30 feet and slide down in. The area has about a 45 degree slope - quite fun. The downside of this run is all the fun stuff and good scenery are at the top. After that you are in a burned section, starting at about mile 2, which doesn't have much.
There are three rapids of consequence, with lots of potential strainer action. At low flows they are fairly tame ... class II+ to III-. I have heard that at 3-4000+ cfs some sections upgrade to class IV. This has happened in El Nino years, but not since I have been on the Kern so I can't say from experience.
At about mile 0.8 is a Class III rapid called Wallow Rock. I did it at lower levels and the water wasn't moving quickly, but I felt like you couldn't see far enough to boat scout for strainers.
The next rapid of consequence, It's A Dilly, is at mile 2.7. I have heard stories of this rapid being significant at high flows.
Shortly below is Oscar's Nightmare. This rapid has very straight-forward moves. However it has the highest risk potential, with a not terribly noticeable rock sieve in the middle of the river. From upstream it looks like a rock pile, but from downstream it is clearly a sieve. This would be a bad place to take a swim as a beginning kayaker. You can often find debris push up against it, which again would be problematic.
This run is a great easy run at medium flows (1000+), and somewhat fun at lower flows. Kayaks can run it downwards of 400-500 cfs and still be okay. Rafts usually want more than 800, due to some tight moves especially at Wallow Rock.
Cassady and Calhoun's "California Whitewater" also has a description of this run, complete with mile-by-mile guide.
Put-in - about half a mile downstream of the Hwy-155 bridge on either side of the river. At low flows you can put in farther south via the north Keysville road, or the first Bodfish exit at the bridge going over the river. This gets you away from some of the more shallow sections when the water level is at the bottom end. Don't be surprised to see all of the rafting companies there too.
Take-out - at Borel Powerhouse, which is an okay takeout with a long carry for kayaks. Taking out at Miracle Hot Springs is common as well, and is recommended for rafts.
Narrative copyright 2004. Contact Tim Perry and Nick Matheson. This page was last updated Jan 15, 2004.