Brush Creek BETA
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Southern California, USA
Brush Creek – Kern River
For those who love slides and waterfalls, Brush Creek is paradise. Typically only enjoyed by kayakers, occasionally the stars align for a raft descent. This is an expert-only run and should not be attempted unless the conditions are perfect and you know what you’re doing.
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About Brush Creek
Brush Creek is a tributary to the Upper Kern River on the Limestone Section. The confluence is at Brush Creek Rapid. With a five-minute shuttle and short hike to the put-in, this run is a highlight for experienced kayakers, and when the flows are perfect, rafters as well.
Length: 1.08 miles
There is an alternate put in that can extend the rule by ~half a mile, but it’s not frequently used.
Rapids: Class IV, V & V+
Keep in mind this is under the lens for rafters. If you’re in a kayak, then many think it’s much easier than this.
When I measured it, I got 400 FPM. Other sources have it at 362 FPM. Either way, it’s steep.
In most years, Brush Creek will never hit a raftable flow. And when it is in the window, it’s going to be brief.
There is no automated flow gauge for Brush Creek, so a rudimentary depth gauge was painted underneath the Brush Creek bridge. For rafts, the flow window is tight, you want a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 4.5. Keep in mind, that these flows are considered to be high towards extremely high. A swim at these flows could be a very dangerous “out-of-boat experience.”
Brush Creek is expert only. In terms of paddling arrangements, you will want to only R-2 this run. If it is your first time, then your R-2 partner needs to have experience with Brush Creek. Do not simply follow someone as there are plenty of waterfalls and the strainer possibility is high. This is not your run of the mill Class V run. There are two portages that come in quick succession. It is very important you know what you’re doing and you are with others that know what they are doing.
From Kernville, head north on Mountain Highway 99 for 19 miles towards Johnsondale Bridge. As you pass Brush Creek campground, park here for the takeout and look at the gauge underneath the bridge. Once you’ve stashed your takeout vehicle, continue driving north up the 99 a half mile until you come to Sherman Pass Road (Forest Route 22S05.) Turn right onto this road and follow it up Brush Creek approximately 2 miles. After ~2 miles, keep your eyes peeled for a worn-out helicopter pad on your right. Do not park on the helicopter pad. Park on the dirt, well off from the pad. From here follow the trail (not the jeep road, but the trail) down to Brush Creek. If you do have a 4WD vehicle you can drive down the jeep trail to Rincon Campground, putting you very close to the creek and adding approximately 0.5 miles to your run, however, the jeep road beats up on vehicles and this additional section is very brushy. The hike is short, 0.18 miles, but steep.
Permits are not required. If you’re up here though, then you’re probably also paddling the Kern River, and in that case, a permit is required.
Brush Creek Videos
Video scouting Brush Creek is a good idea. Below are a handful of videos that will help.
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