River Current Almanac

I am just getting into the sport and very eager to get out there and connect with nature for a day or three. I am wanting to find an almanac style book (or anything of the sort) that catalogues and lets me check into the speed of current or the rivers in a specific area. I live in North Texas and would really like to take a 2-4 day trip along a slower moving river; somewhere i can take my time (as I am still green to the sport), view the local flora and fauna, do some fishing as I go, and camp along the banks where i see fit. I understand that private property may come into play heavily here, so a guide to trips taken previously by other kayakers is really what I am looking for. Any useful info on the topic would be greatly appreciated.

Southwestpaddler.com, maybe?

– Last Updated: Jan-08-14 3:10 PM EST –

I don't know about almanac or river "speeds", but the Southwest paddler provides a lot of information for paddlers about the rivers of the Southwest. For Texas:


It includes minimal, ideal, and maximum flow rates for the river sections it covers, with links to USGS up-to-date stream gage information.

Guide books, clubs and aerial photos

– Last Updated: Jan-08-14 2:10 PM EST –

I can't suggest any books, but any you can find (along with online guides like the one suggested by the previous poster) will be a very good aid in getting started. On that note, even better than books in the beginning would be to join a paddling club, if that's possible. Don't give up if the nearest club seems kind of far away. The local club I belong to has a few members from as far away 80 miles (and a couple that are much farther away than that), so don't be afraid to join a club that's centered a fair distance away if that's what it takes to get in touch with people who do trips together. You may not participate in their regular meetings if the club is far away, but since most river-tripping clubs paddle lots of different locations, you may find that some of the trips require even less driving for you than for the rest of the people. Not everyone is a "flock person", and I myself do far more paddling alone or with one or a few friends than I do with the local club, but even occasional outings with a club will put you on rivers you might otherwise not have considered checking out.

Once you get some practice exploring new locations, you'll find air photos to be a great aid in evaluating places you haven't been to yet. You can tell a lot about a river by its shape and the nature of the surrounding land, and unless the river is very small and hidden beneath a forest canopy you can even see individual fallen trees blocking the channel, small riffles, sandbars, etc. Still, be careful not to be fooled by seasonal changes. A river that looks navigable in early spring might be too shallow in summer or fall, and air photos of a river in flood may not tell you much at all about what to expect when the water level is normal.

For each new river you get acquainted with, familiarize yourself with any local USGS gages ("gage" is how the USGS spells "gauge"), if there are any. The info from these gages is posted online, along with the historical records (historical data is useful for determining average river levels/flow rates at various times of the year, among other things). Take note of the river level and flow rate at times when you've seen or paddled the river, and you can use that information later when deciding if the river might be too low or too high.

On the topic of river levels and flow rates, it will be very seldom that these gages provide info on the speed of the current (flow rate is a volumetric figure, not a speed figure), and you won't get that from guide books either. You'll get the hang of judging current based on the nature of the river, with practice.

weather.gov is where most of the links
mentioned above will take you. The rivers and lakes tabs will show all the stream gages. They do not list the speed but higher levels = faster current. Do not try streams at high levels until you get a lot of experience on that stream and find some trusted friends. Flooded streams can pick up debris and have strong flow through fences and brush thickets where we don’t want to be.

The launch sites map on the Go Paddling tab here is useful too.

Welcome to the group.


River difficulty
Rivers are not graded on difficulty with regard to current velocity because that is so variable.

Rivers, and individual rapids in the East and Midwest are typically graded on a Class I through Class VI scale in terms of difficulty. There is actually another level of river difficulty which is easier than Class I and that is moving flat water, since even Class I water implies that there are some easy rapids.

Moving flat water is typically graded A, B, or C depending on current velocity such as Class A: 2.5 mph or less, Class B: 2.5 - 4.5 mph, Class C: greater than 4.5 mph. It sounds like what you are looking for are Class A or B moving flat water, or maximally Class I streams.

The grades given rivers is based on usual volumes of flow. The vast majority of rivers become more difficult with increasing volumes of water. A Class I river could conceivably become a Class III with enough volume. Even rivers with no rapids can become hazardous with enough current speed. Class C moving flat water is typically flowing faster than even a strong paddler can back paddle against. Most rivers have obstacles like downed trees which can become life-threatening hazards when the water is flowing fast enough.

Other aspects to be considered are access points, the presence or likelihood of log jams, the presence of dams or other obstacles requiring mandatory portages, and such like. Guide books can be useful in providing information of this type but are not always up to date on recent conditions.

The best source of information on stuff like this is usually local paddlers. You might be able to search out experienced paddling partners using on-line meet up groups or Facebook groups. Otherwise, as Erik suggested, look for a local club. I know that the Arkansas Canoe Club has a couple of Texas chapters, one of which is the North Texas River Runners:


Some of those folks are going to be whitewater oriented, but I am pretty sure the ACC has plenty of recreational paddlers as well. And at some point you are probably going to want to venture to the Buffalo National River in Arkansas, so it wouldn’t hurt to get to know some of those folks.