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Kern River swells as high temps melt snowpack

Water flows around 9.6 feet in the Kern River through Kernville, Calif., on May 2, 2017. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

On Tuesday, the Kern River at Kernville passed the 4,500 cfs mark for the fourth time this season.

But unlike the previous three times, this wasn't caused by a storm but rather the opposite: high temperatures.

The Kern River watershed extends many miles north of Isabella Lake toward Mt. Whitney, where the current snow-pack is 178 percent of normal for this time of the year.

As the temperature warms seasonally, the snow gradually melts into the river, eventually winding its way into the lake. However, during periods of sudden high temperatures, the river can experience dramatic surges in flow rate.

White water rafting guides Byron Roos-Collins and Ryland Grivetti said the current flow of 4,500-4,800 is perfect for the upper-Kern River. The wet winter has set them up for a season of "big water," sought out by thrill seekers around the country.

It's a stark contrast to the past four years, when rafting companies survived on shortened seasons and limited stretches of river.

"But now they're having the other problem," said Grivetti. "There's going be too much water. Its' going to be too high to run a lot of the stuff on the upper (Kern River)."

That hasn't happened yet. But even if it does, he said the industry is looking forward to a long season on the lower-Kern River, where the flow is controlled by the release at the Isabella Dam.

For up-to-date information on the Kern River flow, check out the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.

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