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Lower Kern and Kaweah Rivers
Scott McKiernan/Zuma Wire/Zumapress.com

Lower Kern and Kaweah Rivers

Lower Kern and Kaweah Rivers
Wet and wild early-season thrills close to Los Angeles

For a kickback day on a river—all within driving distance from downtown Los Angeles—you can’t beat the Kern and Kaweah Rivers. Southern Californians love to leave the city bustle in the rearview mirror, crank up Merle Haggard singing, “I’ll never swim Kern River again…” and head for the Kern through oak- and sycamore-dotted foothills north of Bakersfield. Further north, near Visalia, the Kaweah offers watery fun.

Adventure seekers can head to the Upper Kern, with a season running April to June. Kern River Outfitters and other companies offer half- and full-day trips on this stretch, with rapids ranging from gentle Class II to heart-thumping Class V. May to July (sometimes later if conditions allow), outfitters also run half- and full-day-day trips down the lively Lower Kern. The river, which is fed with controlled releases from Lake Isabella near Kernville, pulses with Class II-III rapids for most of its 20-mile length, culminating in Class IV thrills near the trip’s end. Two-day adventures include plenty of time to practice the art of (intentional) raft-flipping in inviting pools, and you’ll welcome the chance to swim (river temperature rises to a balmy 70°F).

If you’re an experienced paddler yearning for a full-on adrenaline rush, sign up for a spring trip on the Kaweah River. Beginning in Sequoia National Park, the mostly free-flowing Kaweah tumbles 10,000 feet in 20 miles, creating plenty of Class IV action—crashing waves, big holes, and steep drops over smooth granite slabs. Rafting takes place early, typically April through June. Rafters put in downstream from the national park entrance at Three Rivers, so it’s easy to combine this adventure with a trip to see Sequoia’s goliath trees and soaring peaks. Outfitters including Whitewater Voyages run regular trips.

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Laura Flippen

Central California

Discover the Central Valley

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18
October
Average (°C)
Sept - Nov
32°
High
6°
Low
Dec - Feb
16°
High
3°
Low
Mar - May
28°
High
7°
Low
June - Aug
36°
High
16°
Low

California’s heartland offers up one of the state’s most authentic and sensory-rich experiences, a chance to see—and taste—the state’s bounty at every turn. Follow oak-shaded country roads to farm stands overflowing with fresh produce, and meander along wine trails to some of the state’s most productive vineyards and low-key tasting rooms.

Peaches, plums, apricots, and tomatoes—just some of the ultra-fresh produce you will find at farm stands throughout the valley.

Throughout the broad valley, stretching for over 400 miles/644 kilometers down the middle of the state, are cities and towns rich with history, international culture, and “everyone’s welcome” charm. 

 

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Derrell McCain/Alamy

Best Kept Secret: Solano County

See why this Central Valley region holds its own in terms of good wine, pretty countryside, and cool activities

A treasure awaits about 20 miles east of Napa, in a lovely but largely “secret” area of sprawling countryside and bayfront beauty. This is ...

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Lake Berryessa, located just outside of Winters, has a sunken city underneath it called Monticello.
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Alex Farnum

Davis

You don’t have to be a student to enjoy the perks of this ag-oriented college town

Eco-friendly, liberal leaning, progressive, impressive professor’s homes and fraternity houses—Davis has the hallmarks of a classic American...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisan cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets are...

Lower Kern and Kaweah Rivers VCW_SI_FarmersMarket_T4_CV_DavisFrmMkt1_Flippen_preview_686x885
Laura Flippen
Lower Kern and Kaweah Rivers HagginMuseum_CV
Laura Flippen

Haggin Museum

Local history merges with world-renowned art at this must-see museum in Stockton’s Victory Park

Housed in an early-19th-century brick building, this handsome art and history museum is the centrepiece of Stockton’s stately Victory Park. The 34...

California's Heartland

California's Heartland
Lower Kern and Kaweah Rivers californiasheartland_stop1_tehamatrail_rf_170882174_0

The Tehama Trail is a surprisingly fertile area—a prime place for farms and ranches. Many invite visitors to stop in and buy fresh produce, artisanal olive oils, and other local food products.

The trail links together nearly two dozen vineyards, orchards, and grass-fed beef ranchers and...

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Bakersfield is full of surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, this Central Valley town is morphing into an arts, culture, and sports hub, while still offering a glimpse of the past. Visit Colonel Allensworth State Historic...

Lower Kern and Kaweah Rivers GreyLodge_KG_1280x642
Kodiak Greenwood

Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

Map of Shasta Cascade
Some 300 species of birds and mammals make this a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts

Located on the Pacific Flyway 60 miles north of Sacramento, Gray Lodge encompasses 9,200 acres surrounded by agricultural flatlands and...

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Houseboating

Take to the water on a deluxe floating home

In California, it’s hard to talk about houseboats without talking about the Central Valley. One of the state’s premier places for holidaying in a...

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

California Delta

A boater’s and fisherman’s paradise awaits

Located north-east of the San Francisco Bay, this 1,000-mile network of inland waterways—the major waterway from the snow-capped Sierra Nevada to...

Lodi Wine Country
Dale Goff Photography

Lodi Wine Country

Sample the city’s famous Zinfandels after a day of outdoor fun

Best known for big red wines, particularly old-vine Zinfandels, the American Viticultural Area of...

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The 10 acres of rooms, passages and gardens at Fresno's Forestiere Underground Gardens were excavated by hand using only farming tools.
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Courtesy of Buck Owens Crystal Palace

Bakersfield

Experience California’s oil-rich history, with Basque food and country western music on the side

This rapidly growing city in the southern Central Valley is full of surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, Bakersfield has...