The Kern River is the lifeblood of Kernville, according to those who work and live there. Tourists and locals flock to shorelines for relaxation and adventure bringing life to the community.
“I pinch myself every day like this is what I do for a living. I get to take people fishing and show them this beautiful place. If you like the outdoors it's unreal," said owner of Kern River Fly Shop Guy Jeans.
But this year the river looks a bit different. The record rainfall caused the river to rise to new heights not seen in years. This led to dangerous conditions and tragic deaths this season. Various tourist companies had to change their routines to cater to the new river.
“I have been doing other things. I have been going to smaller creeks. I have been fishing the lake. I haven’t been on the main stem of the river since December. I haven’t guided on it. It is swift right now. You can fish if you stay on the shore just be very careful," said Jeans when asked what he had to do differently.
Raft companies have been looking forward to the full river and swift waters, but still have to take precautions to keep their clients safe.
“Most importantly we know where to put people. We are not going to put folks in the stretches of the river at water levels that would be more dangerous than what we would see regular water year. We raise the minimum age when the water is really high. First and foremost, we make sure we are taking care of them," said Luther Stephens of Whitewater Voyages.
Many key players in the area say the high water actually brings more tourists to the area, but these visitors need to remember the river is different this year. Gary Amania, founder of Kern River Conservancy, says you can't just get in the water to walk or tube down it at this time.
Gary, Luther, and Guy all say that you must respect the Kern and the elements that you are confronting.
“Respect.. a lot of people don’t show it respect and get hurt," said Guy.
Although this season has been dangerous, the Kern River is still a beacon that brings those near and far to this small mountain community.
This is part of the week-long “The Kern River: An Inside Look” series.
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