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  • Writer's pictureKern River's Edge Team

Is Kern River dangerous and can you swim in it?

Updated: May 18, 2023

Is Kern River dangerous? It definitely can be. But then again, driving a car can be just as dangerous if you don’t have the right education and take the proper precautions when behind the wheel of a car.

Let’s break down why the Kern River can be dangerous and what we recommend when swimming or paddling the Kern River.

Learn More: Top 5 ways to cool of while Kern camping during high water

Is Kern River dangerous?

Kern River is a beautiful, majestic body of water. However, at times, the volume of water that flows through the river can be extremely tremendous, and it is easy to be overwhelmed by it.

On top of this, the Kern River has many dangerous rocks, strainers, and currents. So if you are swept under suddenly, you may hit your head, be dragged down further, and drown as a result. In fact, over 300 people have drowned in the Kern River since 1968. Even if you are a strong, experienced swimmer, you can be taken off guard.

If Kern River is dangerous, can you still swim in it?

Even though Kern River is, at times and in certain spots, considered a dangerous body of water, you are still able to safely swim in it during normal flows, not during high water seasons like in 2023. This includes other recreational activities. This being said, you must know and practice safety precautions.

Safety precautions while swimming the Kern River include:

  • Always wear a high float life vest (we recommend a type III pfd)

  • Never use pool toys to raft the waters (watch video below to see why)

  • Always hire a professional guide service when rafting the Kern River

  • Never drink excessively when near the Kern River

  • Always wear protective footwear

  • Always swim near flat beaches where the water is calm or during low-water seasons (The Curve is a great spot to swim during low water)

  • Always stay hydrated and protected from the excessive heat

  • Never swim when the waters are too cold to protect yourself from the dangers of hypothermia

For further advice and education, check out this video we created a few years back:


Recreating responsibly includes packing trash bags to leave our wild spaces cleaner than you found them. There is a glass ban in the Sequoia National Forest, so remember to use plastic storage containers, ziploc bags, or bota bags for camping gear and kitchen supplies instead.

Looking for more insights into the Kern River?

We’d love to help! Our campground is located right on the edge of the Kern River, and we know this majestic body of water inside and out. If you’d like to learn more about swimming, camping, or rafting the Kern River, check out our website or take a look at our additional resources.

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