The Kern River: Campers speak out on river safety, high waters

Posted at 3:11 PM, Aug 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-02 18:11:25-04

Thomas and Rose Murillo have been visiting the Kern River together for 30 years.

“It restores your soul," Rose said.

Each year, they meet friends and family from around the state right here -- next to the Kern River.

Rose and Thomas raised their children on this river. But the river isn't just full of good memories for them.

Only two years ago, they lost a close friend to these waters.

“I really cant say what happened because I didn’t see it,” Rose said. “He was just supposed to go down a little bit.”

A friend had gone down the river on a tube with some strangers and never returned.

Yet, they are still in love with the river -- the river that took their friend's life.

“You have to respect it. It’s also one of the most beautiful things in the world," Thomas said.

Respect. A word used often to explain the river by those who visit it often.

This year the Kern River took 11 lives -- but that fact didn't scare this family away.

“It’s the choices people make that make the river dangerous. It’s not a bad place as long as you respect it," Rose said. "So we enforce it with our kids.”

“I like the river because you can have fun and if you actually play it in safe you can have fun without getting hurt or drowning," 8-year-old Raylene said.

“Our children have been disciplined on this river," Thomas said. “They know what points not to go beyond.”

Each year, they come back to enjoy nature and each other's company.

“I’ve been coming to the Kern River since I was 10 years old," Thomas said. "I’m 53 now.”

“It’s so beautiful. It’s just captivating, I can sit there for hours and just stare at it," Rose said. "We have no stress here."