Family Run Kern River Outfitters Set to Guide Guests on One of the Best Water Ways in the Sierra Nevada

The Kern River is a popular destination for whitewater rafting in California; located 3 hours North of Los Angeles, the Kern river is known for its scenic beauty, challenging rapids, and diverse wildlife. With over 40 miles of river to explore, the Kern offers a variety of rafting experiences for beginners and seasoned adventurers alike.

In 2023 expectations are already soaring for an epic year on the water. The Kern river flows into Lake Isabella at the southern Tip of the Sierra Nevada. Much like Lake Powel in Las Vegas, Lake Isabella has made plenty of headlines for its disappearing lake water over the past couple of seasons of drought. With the 2023 snowpack in the Sierra Nevada being above average, I thought I would check in with local experts on the expectations for the 2023 season.

Matt Volpert, the owner of the Kern River Outfitters, has been guiding and floating the Kern river most his life and has over 20,000 river miles under his belt. A family-owned business started by his father over 40 years ago. Matt is ecstatic to see the snow levels this year in the Sierra and believes that Lake Isabela and the entire region will be full of excellent water action all summer. So confident they are of high water that the Kern River Outfitters have already initiated their High Water safety Policy for 2023- restricting some age limits for the big water rides.

Kern River Outfitters on Kern
Kern River Outfitters on Kern Enjoying time with Guests

The Kern River Outfitters is one of several permitted guide services on the Kern. A highly recommended service for visitors is the Kern river, as it is known for its Class 3- 5 level rapids.

Matt and his family have a long history of guiding guests down large rivers. His Brother Runs the Salmon river in Idaho and Rogue Rivers in Oregon as well. Matt, who took over his father’s operations here on the Kern Guiding guests to the area, now Employs over 50 individuals every summer to bring guests an incredible safe rafting experience in the Southern Sierra.

Guide Services run May through Labor Day weekend each summer, with guests having options of Half Day, Full Day or the most popular, a two-day rafting experience on the lower Kern filled with Class III, IV, and V rapids and an evening at their Riverside camp. Riverside camping with Kern River outfitters sets them apart from the others because of their exclusive riverside campground that splits the two-day trip in half, giving guests the best two-day experience possible.


Kernville is a base camp for most that visit and has an exuberant outdoor community. Kayakers, Mountain bikers & backpackers converge on the local brew pub daily for tails of the Day’s adventures. The SFChronicle named it as one of 8 California small towns you must visit.

Present-day Kernville has flourished and attracts visitors looking for a wild west experience to families and adventure seekers fixed on whitewater rafting and kayaking to stand-up paddling and tubing to mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, camping, antiquing and other recreational activities. Fishing is extremely popular and our native trouts are highly sought after by anglers of all ages. Kernville is also the gateway to the Trail of 100 Giants and many other Giant Sequoia groves within the Giant Sequoia National Monument.

Kernville is open space for many types of adventure weekends.

“Growing up in the river outfitting business, I know what it takes to run, not a good rafting trip, but a great one. Our guides, my family and myself, are committed to providing a safe, and fun river trip that will be the highlight of your summer. For those interested in the other rivers that we run, my older Brother Will is an outfitter in Oregon (Indigo Creek Outfitters) and my younger Brother Skip handles our Middle Fork of the Salmon operation (Idaho River Journeys).” ~ Matt Volpert Owner of Kern River Outfitters

Top to bottom, the Lower Kern river travels 19.24 miles. A Permit is required for all watercraft on the Kern, but they are free, so boaters only need ask. Local knowledge of the river is good to have. Matt and his team have developed the Kern River Guide Book. A downloadable guide with detailed rapid-by-rapid descriptions and where to put in and get out. With one Class VI staring visitors in the face a guided service might be your best bet for an over-the-top great and safe experience.

Kern River Wild and Scenic River
Kern River A Wild and Scenic River of California

The Kern River is one California’s Wild and Scenic Rivers. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, signed into law in 1968, aims to protect and preserve America’s remaining free-flowing rivers and their outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values. The Kern River was added to this prestigious list in 1987, making it one of only a few rivers in California with this designation. The Kern River’s designation as a Wild and Scenic River acknowledges its unique and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources and the need to manage and protect them for future generations. This designation has not only helped preserve the natural beauty and ecosystem of the Kern River. Still, it has also ensured that visitors can continue to enjoy the recreational opportunities it provides.

Thank you for reading our Sierra Rec magazine March 2023 Spring edition. If you liked this content please share it with friends and consider Joining our community and supporting our writers. We offer a great annual donation subscription program for $18 a year with 40% Donated back to local trail programs.



Publisher of Sierra Rec Magazine. An avid hiker and explorer of mountain lifestyle and adventure. I love to discover new trails, hike along rivers and hang a hammock along the shores of a mountain lake. I often great people on the trail and have found some of my favorite places from the advice of people I meet in the Wilderness. I love the sierra and just like sharing what I know.

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