South Fork Kern River
The EcoAngler Report
Planning a trip to the Upper South Fork Kern River? Get scientific based angling intel in The EcoAngler Report - Upper South Fork Kern River.
Detailed information on the South Fork Kern River's native California golden population along with a map and directions to access this remote Sierra Nevada stream can be purchased here.
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Headwaters of the South Fork Kern River
The South Fork of the Kern River rises southeast of Cirque Peak on the east side of a high mountain ridge separating it from Golden Trout Creek. For the initial six to seven miles it flows southwest until it enters Tunnel Meadow. At the est end of Tunnel Meadow, the South Fork flows in a sharp southeast direction.
As seen in the above picture (taken late September), the flows of the upper South Fork Kern are somewhat smaller than Golden Trout Creek. Further downstream of Tunnel Meadow it picks up additional flow from other creeks such as Mulky Creek. The trail from Tunnel Meadow Station heading west to Bullfrog Meadow follows the South Fork of the Kern for much of it's length. Here the South Fork meanders through a long, flat and sandy meadow largely "fenced" in by dense willows growing along its course. At the east end of the meadow, the South Fork (as well as the trail) head north up a narrow canyon. The river cascades over boulders and the ocassion pool forms.
A Refugee for California Golden Trout
Genetic sampling of California golden trout by C.D.F.G and the University of California at Davis found the level of introgression increased from the headwaters of the South Fork Kern River downstream to Kennedy Meadows (lower end of sampling). The highest levels of introgression (48% to 88%) occurred at these downstream locations. Discouraging as that is, headwater trout populations showed a relatively low level (4%) of introgression.
Trout populations on the South Fork Kern River are now separated by a series of three man-made barriers. However, the initial hybridization appears to have occurred prior to the construction of the first barrier in 1970.