Kern River Rafting

Call of the Wild

Kern River called and we answered.

kern river rafting

The Sevylor four-person raft took us down the Athabasca without a hitch, 1986

The last time Mark and I had inflated our Sevylor raft, a “Caravelle” was 25 years ago. We bounced along many streams and rivers on it, prior to shoving it up on a garage shelf.

That little yellow “ride” thrilled us on the Athabasca, the Colorado and McKenzie Rivers. It was the inaugural floating device on a set of rapids next to the Hydro-electric dam in Whitehorse, Yukon. That is the spot where Whitehorse originally obtained its name. Once upon a time, before the construction of the dam, those rapids were like an untameable horse’s mane.

In 1986, Mark and I popped open a couple of beers, appraised the rushing water and said, “It can be done; let’s do it.” Once did it and survived, the rest of the town’s youthful adventurers all took a turn and who knows what traffic that river has seen ever since?

Anyway, a few July’s ago, before the severe California drought, we went on a River Tubing Trip at the Kern River.  We had no idea what we’d find when we unfurled the old raft, but she looked as good as new and inflated without any leakage. The trip was on!

A Wet Welcome

We stopped for dinner at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Lupitas (between Los Angeles and the Grapevine) where everything was excellent (and huge). Mark, several of our friends, and I arrived at camp very late that Wednesday evening.  We set up our tents in the dark then crawled into them. At 3:30 in the morning the sprinklers started. Two of them pelted our tent for the next hour. Good thing we had the rain fly on. It was a miserable sleep and inauspicious beginning to what would turn out to be a series of amazing days on the river.

Rollin’ on Kern River

kern river rafting bakersfield california

Bakersfield in the summer

The Kern River is located outside Bakersfield, California. The town is duly named, as in the middle of summer, you can fry an egg on the sidewalk there. The best place to be is in, on or near the Kern River.

Kern River rafting adventure

Group of friends about to embark on Kern River rafting adventure

The river was way up that year, due to all the rains and snow melt. And river tubes have come a long way from those beefy black tire tubes. Fun, fun, fun! As with any endeavors in Mother Nature, one must respect the river and be constantly aware.  It’s easy to get swept into low-hanging branches along the bank. Safety first!

The surrounding hillsides were burnt blonde and yet everything next to the river was a verdant green.

We had two or three river runs every day. We splashed around, conversed, laughed, and even shared a little Air Poetry. (This is an invention of mine that I have been practicing for several years now as a form of entertainment.)

As any child knows who spends all day outdoors under the sun, there is a time for splashing, a time for floating, and a time for snoozing. All good things under heaven.

Mark rafting Kern River in Sevylor

Mark at the oars of the Sevylor on Kern River

Summer Fun

if you are ever in the neighborhood of the Kern River during the summer months, and have access to a safe and sturdy floating device, go for it.  Better yet, stay at the campground for a night or two, stock up on some good beers and yummy eats, and relax.  Everybody needs a good “battery recharge,” especially in the summer. A romp on the Kern will make you feel like a kid again!

If you need any further convincing, here’s a video I edited that features the rocking stylings of local cover band, “Monsters of Rock.” I cut their rendition of “Rebel Yell” with some fun moments on the Kern River (and another secret watering hole we frequent in the summer that we call “White Beaver Dam”).

River Rafting Videos

If you’re interested in a rafter’s view of a river – the Merced – check out this helmet-cam video shot by my husband, Mark Schulze.


Patty Mooney is a VP, Video Producer, Sound Technician, Teleprompter Operator and Video Editor at award-winning San Diego video production company, Crystal Pyramid Productions.