BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The Kern River is a very dangerous river. In 2018 the river claimed four lives. Its most dangerous year it killed 16 people.
The dangers that come with the Kern River mean you should be very careful when you spend time on or near the river. Kern County Search and Rescue rescuers advise the safest way to enjoy the river, if you want to go in or on it, is with a local guide or guide company.
River's End Rafting is a white water rafting company in Northeast Bakersfield. During the summer they have daily trips down the Kern River from just inside the canyon to just north of Ming Lake. Sara Adona is a raft guide for River's End Rafting. She has these three tips for staying safe on the Kern River:
1. Wear a life jacket. Adona said it's important to not only have your life jacket on, but to have it sized appropriately and tightly. She said if you fall in a tight life jacket will stay on you better and will allow a potential rescuer to get a hold of you and pull you ashore or back onto the boat.
2. Know the river. Adona said having knowledge of where the faster and more dangerous parts of the river will help you better avoid those parts.
3. Go with a guide team. Adona said guide companies, like hers, have more safety measures than the average people visiting the Kern River. River’s End Rafting has a safety kayaker with each rafting trip as well as safety lines to get someone who falls in to safety faster.
If you’re unsure if an area is safe in the Kern River, the best way to stay safe is don’t go into the water. Kern park rangers said it’s difficult to see in the Kern River, which makes it easier to miss trees or boulders under the water, as well as currents and undertows in the water.