Dry Meadow Creek into the Kern


Stretch: Top of the Canyon into North Fork Kern
Difficulty: class V with several portages, ultra steep
Distance: 1.2 miles plus 1.8 miles on Kern, 1 day
Flows: kayaks 60 - 180 cfs
Gauge: judge by Kern flow measured at Kernville (by Army Corps)
Gradient: 400 fpm average (200, 1400 fpm last .2 mile)
Put-in: dirt road accessible from Johnsondale, 4360'
Take-out: Johnsondale bridge from Kern confluence, 3880'
Shuttle: 5 miles (15 minutes) one-way, partly on dirt road
Maps: USFS Sequoia NF, AAA Sequoia Region
Season: spring, from snowmelt
Agency: USFS, permit required?
Notes: © 1997 Rocky Contos, jcontos@ucsd.edu

On Saturday 17 May 1997, four others and I did Dry Meadow Creek in the Kern drainage, led by Robert Dilman who had done it four other times that year. To get to the put-in, drive toward the Forks trailhead, but turn down the CAMP 4 dirt road after passing the creek on the paved road. At some times of the year this is locked by a gate and you have to hike down the dirt road about a mile. Put in just above the confluence of two sizeable streams. Last weekend each of these had maybe 30 cfs.

The entire run is only about 2 miles. In the upper stretch there were a lot of small rapids and some tree branches to scrape over, but it could all be done with one portage. One spot with a tree across the creek caused three of us to step out of our boats. After about a mile there is a sizeable drop of 6-8' at a left hand turn. Further on (maybe another half mile or so) there are two more sizable rapids. One is a series of 2-8' falls, the one in the middle has a right narrow channel that is ugly, and a wide left channel with a big rock halfway down. One in our group broached on this rock, and two others slammed into it on our left sides. Just below here is an unrunnable 2' wide slot with a 15' falls. A seal launch on the left at the falls is fun.

Below this rapid there is another tight spot known as the Bermuda Triangle consisting of two technical drops, the first of which must be taken on the left (the right channel is not possible).

A little below the Bermuda Triangle is the Seven Teacups. This is whole reason for the run. Seven clean falls of 6-20' are separated by calm round short pools. It is an impressive place.

Seven Teacups

© 1997 Michael Neumann neumann@rotpunkt.de

This picture was taken from the highest vantage point with 300mm lens. Image appears courtesy of the photographer. Michael Neumann is an editor for KANUmagazin, published in Germany by Rotpunkt Verlag, www.rotpunkt.de on the web.

Dry Meadow Creek CA

Here is a thumbnail guide to the Seven Teacups. Make sure to count correctly! In 1998 an expert Australian kayaker lost count and forgot to portage after the 7th Teacup. He broke both arms, but was rescued by heroic kayakers, and has since recovered.

  1. After the first fall, which is a broken drop, all the water flows under the granite at a “natural bridge” so to speak. One must stabilize one's kayak in the flowing water and get up onto the bridge to walk across. In the pool on the other side you can see where the water passes under from the light that shines through (the passage is only about a half foot under water).
  2. The second fall (12') had a eddy on the creek-right just above that Robert went into and peeled out jumping into the pool on the left below the fall (in a Whipit). I went in the eddy, but couldn't peel out because my boat was too long (Wavesport Extreme). After several frantic minutes, I ended up backing up to the lip of the falls and did a strong right sweep to get out. Pretty scary. Preston tried going in the eddy the opposite orientation but still couldn't line up correctly.
  3. Boof the third fall (15') on the right.
  4. The fourth fall is the largest (20') and through a very narrow slot. Aim to the right. I banged my elbow going through it.
  5. The fifth drop (15') is run straight.
  6. The sixth (6') has a hole below on the left that people have swam out of. A sneak route on the right is possible.
  7. The last drop is very clean everywhere (about 10').
After the seventh teacup, take out on the left and portage the next 4-5 falls (between 6' and 50'). It takes about 20-30 minutes to portage. Some of us used some ropes to lower boats. The last sliding fall into the Kern is fun to run (about 15'). All in all, an enjoyable creek with some impressive drops that make great video. Once on the Kern though, it felt good to get on some real water.

[Pictures of kayakers starting at #5 were taken by Boris Trgovcich in 2002.]

Dry Meadow Creek CA

View from the top confirms that it's steep!
Dry Meadow Creek CA
At low flow, kayakers portage #1 thru #4

Dry Meadow Creek CA Dry Meadow Creek CA
Sneak boof on #6 to avoid hole Slanting route on #7 just for fun


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