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Lower Kern River

The section of the Kern River below the Lake Isabella dams to the base of the canyon is known as the Lower Kern. The canyon is narrow, steep and dry with occasional foothill pines, buckeye, oaks, and grasses. The river’s edge supports large sycamores and willows. The close proximity to Bakersfield makes the Lower Kern very popular with residents.

For health and safety reasons there is no overnight camping allowed in the lower canyon except for Black Gulch dispersed area, and Hobo and Sandy Flat Campgrounds.

Whitewater Boating - Lower Kern. The water flow of the Lower Kern is regulated by the Lake Isabella dams providing an extended season for white water boating from below the dam to Democrat Beach. Outfitter guides can operate rafting trips for most of the summer unlike the Upper Kern that is dependent on natural water flows.

Lower Canyon. From the mouth of the canyon, the Kern River is accessible along Highway 178. Multiple developed day use areas provide picnic tables, restrooms, and fishing access. Many people chose to pull off alongside the road and hike to the river.

From Democrat up to the dam, day use sites include boat put-ins and takeouts. Highway 178 crosses the river at Delonega Day Use. As the two lane road winds up the steep, narrow canyon the river is left far below. To reach the river dirt roads lead to popular river sites such as Black Gulch.

Old Kern Canyon Road (County Road 214) at Democrat breaks off from Highway 178 continuing to wind and climb the canyon along the southeast side of the river. This narrow road eventually connects to Miracle Hot Springs day use, Hobo and Sandy Flat Campgrounds reconnecting to Highway 178 at the top of the canyon at Bore Road.

Swimming Is Not Recommended. Powerful currents, cold water temperatures, and underwater hazards such as fallen trees and rocks, can trap even the strongest swimmers. Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death along the Kern. Falling in is as dangerous as swimming. Children should always be wearing life preservers and be closely supervised.

Fishing is a popular activity.

Annual Kern River Use Permit. Good through April 30 of the following year, is required year round for EACH watercraft. Permits are issued at the Forest Services offices. A Coast Guard approved personal flotation device must be readily accessible, properly fit, and in good condition, for each member of the party. Daily water flow information is available from the Kern River Flow Phone. Flow information can be accessed toll-free at 877-537-6356 or locally at 760-376-8821.

 Site list: Black Gulch North Campground Black Gulch South Campground Delonegha River Access Boating Site Hobo Campground Hobo Fishing Trail (31E74) East Kern Canyon Trail (31E75) Kern River Trail (32E49) Live Oak Day Use Area Lower Richbar Day Use Area Patch Corner Trail (31E82) Sandy Flat Campground Upper Richbar Picnic Site "