Lower Kern River

Area Status: Open

The section of the Kern River from 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 makes the Lower Kern very popular with residents of Bakersfield.

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: 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, which is dependent on natural water flows.

Lower Canyon: From the mouth of the canyon, the Kern River is accessible along Highway 178. Several developed day-use areas provide picnic tables, restrooms, and fishing access.

From Democrat up to the dam, day-use sites include boat put-ins and takeouts. Highway 178 crosses the river at Delonegha Day Use Area. 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) breaks off from Highway 178 at Democrat, continuing to climb the canyon along the southeast side of the river. This narrow road eventually connects to Miracle Hot Springs Picnic Site, as well as Hobo and Sandy Flat Campgrounds, reconnecting to Highway 178 at the top of the canyon at Borel 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.

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 for each member of the party must be readily accessible, properly fit, and in good condition.

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.


At a Glance

Current Conditions: For Kern River Ranger District recreation information, please call 760-376-3781.
Area Amenities: Boat ramp, Picnic tables, Toilets, Parking


Campground Camping


Campgrounds along the Lower Kern
Campgrounds  Elevation Sites Season Max Trailer Potable Water Remarks
Black Gulch North 2300   May-Oct N/A No  
Black Gulch South 2300   May-Oct N/A No  
Hobo 2400 35 Apr-Sep 24' No  
Sandy Flat 2400 35 All Year 24' Yes Reservable

Day Hiking


Trails in the Lower Kern River Corridor
Trails Trail Number Elevation Miles Remarks
East Kern Canyon 32E75 2200-2400 8.5 Bicycles Permitted
Hobo Fishing 31E74 2280-2400 0.5 Fishing
Kern River 32E49 2200 5.3 Bicycles Permitted
Patch Corner 31E82 2200-2271 2.0 Bicycles Permitted



Day Use Areas Along the Lower Kern
Day Use Areas Elevation Season Potable Water
Live Oak 1400 Mar-Sep No
Lower Richbar 1400 Mar-Sep No
Upper Richbar 1400 All Year No
Fees: Southern Sierra Pass required
Hours of Operation: Sunrise to Sunset


Picnic tables: In the designated Day-Use areas
Parking: In the designated Day-Use areas.
Toilets: In the designated Day-Use areas.
Boat ramp: For rafting at launch locations.

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities