In this file photo, a heavy rain year and melting snowpack left the Kern River surging with powerful amounts of water.

“Killer Kern” earned its name this weekend.

The Kern River claimed three lives and nearly killed at least a dozen others who were rescued this Memorial Day weekend by Kern and Tulare county emergency responders.

One woman was pulled out of the river in Hart Park Sunday at about 9:30 a.m., according to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. She has not yet been publicly identified.

The afternoon before, a 44-year old man from Los Angeles was rafting north of Kernville when he fell overboard.

CPR was performed, and he was taken to Kern Valley Hospital, where he later died. His name has not yet been released.

Around the same area, 11 other rafters were rescued, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office told The Fresno Bee.

On Monday, search crews found the body of a man who was rafting with his teenage son and was thrown overboard when they hit rough waters west of Lake Isabella, a Kern County sheriff’s official told the Los Angeles Times.

Then on Monday, a Bakersfield man and his 11-year-old son were rescued near River Walk when their kayak capsized in a rough current, Bakersfield Fire Department Administrative Battalion Chief John Frando said.

“We’ve been encouraging people for well over a month to stay out of the Kern River this year as a result of the higher flows,” Frando said, remarking on this year’s heavy rainfall and melting snowpack that has been sending powerful amounts of water into the river. “There’s a lot of hidden dangers as a result of that increased water flow.”

Before this weekend, two people had already died in the river, bringing the overall death toll so far this year to five. Three died in 2016.

Water levels have risen 10 times higher than last year, Frando told The Californian last month, making it the biggest water year for the river since 2011, when 15 died.

Harold Pierce can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @RoldyPierce.

(2) comments


I walk at Hart Park a lot and have observed how powerful that river is. Why are there no park rangers, Sheriff on patrol? Also the hills in Hart park are a hazard as motorcycles and shooter are up there with the hikers. Again, where is the patrol units? And of course there is the ever mounting trash that visitors leave. There is no one to warn them, to cite them. IF, they have to put a fee on going to the park, then they had better have regular and consistent patrols there too.


The Kern River is or was the third fastest moving river in the US. The Olympic Kayak team trains there. And, it's beautiful! My ex-husband and two daughters were rescued, there, once upon a time. Our dog, would float for down river for miles, and then return to us by land. My condolences to the families.

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