Runoff from the Upper Kern River is stored in Lake Isabella and then released to the Lower Kern River according to flood control and irrigation requirements. The releases for summertime irrigation normally produce good flows for rafting and kayaking.
Although only a 2.5-3.0 hour drive from Los Angeles, the class IV Miracle to Democrat run on the Lower Kern River is usually remarkably uncrowded. Sure, you’ll probably see a few rafts, but nothing like the log jam of rafts on some other rivers. It’s not unusual to paddle for a couple of hours and not see another group.
On the 11 mile reach between Miracle Hot Springs and the Democrat Day Use Area, there are eight rapids that are rated class III+ or class IV, many class II and class III rapids, and one class V rapid. The class V rapid, Royal Flush, is normally portaged. There are numerous places for kayakers to surf, spin and play along the way. Depending on how much time is spent playing, paddlers may choose to take out at Delonegha, at about the 7 mile point, or continue on the “Big Five” section to Democrat.
In this post’s photo, the kayaker is paddling the rapid Deadman’s Curve, aka Powerful Possum. This class IV rapid plunges down a big drop with surprising speed into steep waves and pushy diagonals.
Note: It is extremely important to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) when on a river. If you’re not an experienced whitewater kayaker or rafter, contact an outfitter for more information about paddling trips and instruction.