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For the last five years, the drought severely depleted the Kern River, usually one of the fastest-flowing rivers in the West.

But the exceedingly wet winter has returned the 165-mile Kern, California’s 10th-longest river and a favorite among whitewater rafting enthusiasts, to a power not seen in years. Fueled by runoff that ultimately stretches from its headwaters at the base of Mt. Whitney, dramatic rapids and swift flows are returning to a river so feared that it’s known as the “Killer Kern.”

Over the Memorial Day weekend, its reputation was confirmed.

Three people died and 24 were rescued in multiple incidents along the river, about three hours north of Los Angeles. Five more were rescued from other nearby rivers.

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