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Tips for Surviving the Kern River
By: Brian Emch

Topics: Kern River, Tubing, inner tubes, recreation, swimming, camping
Posted by saguarowestphotography Mon Jul 7, 2008 15:33:36 PDT
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So you wanna tube the Kern? In light of the recent missing persons up at the Kern River, I thought I'd post a few tips for people thinking of swimming in the Kern, or taking their inner tubes up to the River this summer.

I've been tubing the north fork of the Kern for about five years now, and it never ceases to amaze me how reckless people are up there. The South fork seems to be the more dangerous of the two. One thing people really need to do is to spend some time at various pullouts along the river, checking out the water level and the current. Watch the rapids, especially the stronger ones. There are points in the rapids that create a sort of 'vaccum'-like effect, which causes people to get sucked under the water's surface. Having survived one of these myself, needless to say I am much more picky where I enter the water!

If you have any doubts about any particular set of rapids - just play it safe and don't go in them. Right now, the river's water level is just too high in most places for swimming and tubing. And trust me, the current is stronger than it looks. The safest time of year to go tubing is between August and October in terms of the water level. And even then you need to know the river a little bit before entering. Do your homework, and you'll find many safe places to ride the river. Many of the safest spots are in and around Kernville. But please respect the private property nearby.

If you're a weak swimmer, you should probably avoid this until your skills are a little stronger. Consider wearing a life jacket at all times. If you have children with you, please keep an eye on them at all times.

There are several alternatives to getting in the river itself - South Creek falls, way up the north end of the canyon, is a great place. The hike to its base is a challenge, but well worth the effort. Just south of SC falls, and directly across the road from a large dirt parking lot, is a set of 'mini' waterfalls. Further up the canyon, is the well-known natural waterslide. The water is almost always a lot colder than the river, but it's safer as well.

If all else fails, there's always the Owens River, to the northeast, along hwy 395. No rapids, but again, a lot safer place to ride the water if you've got the itch. One final note: Leave your boom boxes at home (as much as I like loud music too, they have no place in campgrounds where people are looking for peace and quiet), and please PICK UP YOUR TRASH!!

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