The Kern River is one of the few river systems in the Sierra Nevada that flows in a north/south orientation. Congress added the North Fork to the federal system in 1987. The designation of the North and South Forks Kern, the Kings, and the Merced by Congress that year represents the single largest expansion of the federal system in California since the national system was established by Congress in 1968. The North Fork begins at the Kings-Kern Divide in Kings Canyon-Sequoia National Park and flows south into the Golden Trout Wilderness and the Sequoia National Forest. The lower segment of the river is easily accessible from the town of Kernville.
The river possesses an astounding array of scenic, recreational, fish, wildlife, geological, cultural/historical, and ecological values. The river flows in its north/south orientation through an unparalleled range of relatively unaltered habitats. Due to its largely roadless watershed, the North Fork Kern exhibits a high level of biotic integrity. The Forest Service has identified several tributaries of the NF Kern as eligible for protection in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The upper segment provides outstanding wilderness recreation and the lower segment provides outstanding dispersed recreation, including camping, picnicking, fishing, hiking and bike riding, and whitewater boating.