good river flow

When looking at a rivers information, how can you tell if the water is running good enough for a kayak? I am new to the whole whitewater thing, and I was just wondering if you could tell by the Cubic feet per second rating (CF/S). If not, should I just go look at the river and see if it looks good? As a beginer, I don’t want to get in over my head (too much whitewater) or be stranded every five minutes and have to portage half of the river. Thanks for any help you can give.


The rate of flow is only of use if…
…you are already familiar with the river, because there is too much variation in the sizes of rivers to only make a judgement by volume of flow. Not long ago someone on these boards told how they got their boat pinned, saying that it was a bad situation because the flow rate was 600 cuic feet per second. That’s useless information for those of us who didn’t know his river! One of my local rivers has a flow volume that is only less than 4,000 cubic feet per second during a dry spells, and even at 10,000 cubic feet per second it lacks the boat-pinning power of some small rivers when they are at flowing at a mere 300.

It all depends on the gradient and the size of the river channel (incidently, gradient is a useless piece of information too, if it’s the only thing you know about a river. You have to know more about the river than just the gradient before you can know anything about how fast it runs). So, there’s no way around it. You have to actually see the water and relate what you see to the published flow rates, or rely on another person who has the needed familiarity. Once you’ve looked at (or paddled on) the water when it’s running at various different volumes, then you can use those numbers to know the condition of the river.

It depends on the river
and particular section, the size and shape of the river channel.

Lots of spots will have boating guides that give an idea of what conditions will be like at different flow rates. Google for the name of the river and American Whitewater to get started. Probably a good idea to find some local kayakers who can get you started or take a whitewater class.

Go to
and use their river guide function. Their lists by state usually give good information about the minimum and maximum cfs, as well as direct gauge access.

You could also JOIN AW or American Whitewater, an organization which does much for whitewater river preservation, public access, recreational releases, and dam removal.

Check Here
You being in East Texas, and you want to paddle whitewater, you’re probably going to end up in Northwest Arkansas to find whitewater to run. Go here - and check the “Ozark Creek Information Summary”. You’ll find a lot of information other than the actual river level including a “class” rating, a “too low – just right – and too high” recommendation, and other helpful information as well. While you’re joining things, you might as well join the Arkansas Canoe Club as well. I’m sure we’ll be seeing you on Arkansas Rivers and Creeks.

Try This
American Whitewater uses a color code system for recommended flow rates.

If I am going to paddle…
a river that is any more than class I-II, I am going to scout it first.

The CFS don’t mean anything to me until I know the various drops and rapids then on a recurring trip there I will know what to expect.



Texas info.

– Last Updated: Nov-06-05 7:36 PM EST –

All my kayak "favorites" disappeared from the family computer last week.....but here is one link useful for paddlers in Texas....I myself live in East Texas.

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