Kern River (song)

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"Kern River"
Single by Merle Haggard
from the album Kern River
B-side "Old Watermill"
Released July 1, 1985
Genre Country
Length 3:23
Label Epic
Writer(s) Merle Haggard
Producer(s) Grady Martin
Merle Haggard singles chronology
"Make Up and Faded Blue Jeans"
"Kern River"
"Amber Waves of Grain"

"Kern River" is a song written and recorded by American country music artist Merle Haggard. It was released in July 1985 as the only single and title track from his album Kern River. The song peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.[1]

The song grimly recounts the story of the singer's girlfriend drowning in the Kern River, California.[2] In the 2013 biography Merle Haggard: The Running Kind writer David Cantwell calls the track "a scary record" that "screamed quiet and startled you alive."[3]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1985) Peak
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[4] 10
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 10


"Kern River" was covered by Emmylou Harris on her album All I Intended to Be and by Dave Alvin on his album West of the West.


  1. ^ "Merle Haggard singles". Allmusic. Retrieved November 27, 2011. 
  2. ^ Vain, Madison. "The Essential Merle Haggard," Entertainment Weekly (Apr. 22/29, 2016).
  3. ^ Cantwell, David (2013). Merle Haggard: The Running Kind. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-71771-8. 
  4. ^ "Merle Haggard – Chart history" Billboard Hot Country Songs for Merle Haggard.