River Use Permit

How to obtain a River Use Permit for the Upper and Lower Kern Run.

A Kern River Use Permit is required year round and is valid from May 1 through April 30 each year. Permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis and are free of charge. A permit is required for EACH craft. Group size cannot exceed 18 people on the river at one time.

To obtain a permit, fill out an application IN PERSON at Forest Service offices in Kernville, Lake Isabella or Springville. Private boater permits are also available at Sierra South, 11300 Kernville Road, Kernville, CA 93238 from 8 am to 5 pm, 7-days a week.  Applications will not be mailed out or left in office drop boxes. Upon completion of your application, a waterproof permit may be issued.

A permit is required from Riverkern Beach south to Riverside Park in Kernville. A permit is not required from the KR3 Powerhouse.

How to obtain a River Use Permit for Forks Run

On the Forks Run, the Forest Service operates an advance reservation service in an effort to give boaters a more equal chance of obtaining a permit. The Forks Run is limited to 15 people per day. Permits are required from May 15 through September 15 each year.


To obtain a reservation, there is a $10.00 fee to enter the selection process. This fee is not refundable regardless of whether or not you are successful in the drawing. Applications for a reservation will be made through the mail beginning March 15 each year. Requests postmarked before March 15 will be returned. The final deadline to submit an application is April 15. We accept only ONE application per person during this reservation process. If more than one is submitted all will be eliminated from the drawing. Applications will be separated by requested put-in dates, and a drawing will occur for those dates which have an excess of requests.

Obtaining a Permit

Fill out this application providing complete information on the front and back. Sign the back of the form and be sure to include your first, second and third choice dates. Type or print legibly. Faxed copies of the application will not be accepted.

Mail this application to:

Kern River Ranger District
c/o River Permits
P.O. Box 9
Kernville, CA 93238

Enclose a personal check, cashier's check or money order in the amount of $10.00. Checks should be made payable to:

USDA Forest Service.

Please, do not send cash.

After The Drawing

If you are successful in the drawing your permit will be mailed out May 1. If you are unsuccessful in the drawing you may call our office before May 15, secure a permit for unfilled slots and have it mailed to you. After May 15, permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis, by phone and walk-in. THESE PERMITS MUST BE PICKED UP IN PERSON by 9:00 AM the day of your trip or up to 24-hours in advance.

They are available at the following Forest Service office:

Kern River Ranger District
11380 Kernville Road
Kernville, CA 93238

Cancellation and Party Size Reductions

You must notify the Kernville Ranger Station within 7 days of your scheduled trip, if you need to cancel your reservation or if your party size changes. If you fail to cancel within the time frame you will be considered a "no-show" and will be eliminated from applying for a Forks permit the following year!