Brush Creek Information
Brush Creek is a tributary to the Upper Kern 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.
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, these flows are considered to be high towards extremely high. A swim at these flows could be a very dangerous “out of boat experience.”
About the guide
This is a one-star guide, which means we cover some items but significant and important details have not yet been completed and published.
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. Video one is by Tom Horn who ran it at 6 feet. I interviewed him in September 2020 regarding Brush and he mentioned that at six feet it is too big. Video two is by Mike Spradlin, of note, some of the rafts are an R-3. The final two videos are both by Brett Duxbury, who has put together more material about Brush than anyone else.
Tom Horn and Ed Jackson in an Aire Sabercat rafting Brush Creek at 6 feet.
Mike Spradlin with guides from Whitewater Voyages and Kern River Tours. Hard to tell on the gauge, but it appears to be 5 feet.
This is a kayak video by Brett Duxbury showing Brush between 3 – 4.
Another Duxbury production, “The Definitive Brush Creek.” You’ll see that many of these clips are too low for a raft, but pay attention to the drops, as this is the only video that labels each drop.
Help us complete this guide
We need your help to finish this guide. While we have most of the information, we need assistance with a number of drop locations and descriptions. If you know this run well, we would love to hear from you. Use the form below to drop us a line, and thank you very much.