Johnsondale Bridge is the furthest upstream put-in for the Upper Kern on the Limestone section. The parking lot here can get very busy as it sees heavy use as the starting point for the Four Mile Trail that runs up the Forks of the Kern.
If you’re coming in with a trailer, your best bet is to drive past Johnsondale Bridge to access the loop road, that way you can avoid doing a ten-point turn to get your vehicle and trailer turned around.
The path to the water is quite far, so many hands are encouraged to move the rafts down to the water. If you’re using oar boats, it might be a good idea to carry your frame and oars separately and rig at the water to avoid trying to awkwardly carry a loaded raft down the long concrete ramp.
Prior to 2018, the path from the bridge to the water featured large boulders which were the perfect shape and size for rolling ankles. (Pictured below.) In 2018, the Forest Service fixed the ramp and added concrete which flattened out the boulders and improved it significantly. (Also pictured.)
Johnsondale Bridge is named after Johnsondale, the former town, which is up the road past the bridge 4.8 miles. This town was originally built to provide housing for the employees of a sawmill operation, Mount Whitney Lumber Company, that was active in Johnsondale from 1935 until 1979. The bridge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and completed in 1937. At the town’s peak, about 700 people lived at Johnsondale. Today, R-Ranch occupies the town, which is described as a “tranquil mountain vacation resort.”
The R-Ranch website has a Johnsondale history page that provides photos and indepth history of the sawmill company and town.
This video shows the bridge and Bridge Rapid.
Hiking and fishing from Johnsondale Bridge.