The river possesses an astounding array of scenic, recreational, fish, geological, historical, cultural, 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 South Fork Kern exhibits a high level of biotic integrity and provides outstanding wilderness recreation.
Past grazing in the Monache and Kennedy Meadow areas has degraded recreation values, caused bank erosion, and harmed water quality. Although Forest Service grazing allotments in these areas are on hold to allow the river to recover, there is concern that resumption of grazing in this relatively dry area may result in further impacts.
Downstream of the wild and scenic segment on public lands, the South Fork flows through the nearly 3,000-acre Audubon Kern River Reserve. The rich riparian habitat along the river in the Reserve supports over 300 bird species.