At 14,494 feet (4,418 meters), Mount Whitney is California's highest point [source: Mount-whitney.com]. Its snowmelt drains through the tight canyons of the Kern River, 165 miles (265 kilometers) south to Bakersfield. Of course, massive flow through tight canyons equals big white water. Nowhere is this more true than in the section known as the Forks of the Kern River, which originates near Mount Whitney. To take on these white-water rapids, adventurers must hike 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) to the put-in, while mules carry rafts.
A sign along the highway at the Bakersfield mouth of the river is updated with the number of people killed since 1968. As of May 26, 2011, it read "257" [source: Bakersfield Californian]. As the LA Times put it: "If you survive the 10-foot waterfall, there's a suck hole 20 yards beyond. Hit that wrong, and your wife is dating again" [source: Latimes.com].