River seemed out of synch with gauge

Paddled my local river after work today - quick 6.5 mile run. The water seemed to be up based on the strength of current, height of wave trains and general swirliness. It did however, take me about as long as it does during what I would consider more “normal” conditions. When I got home and checked the NOAA site to complete my paddling journal, I was surprised that it was similar to levels I’ve paddled earlier this year and not noticed the increased swirliness.

My question - since the water was up earlier in the week (5.7) and had dropped by today (3.9), is the river somehow different, even at the same height. What other than the gauge reading can impact the way the river “feels.” No real wind to contend with, although yesterday and the day before were very windy. Your thoughts?

how recent
was the reading? Sometimes they’re a day off where I live. Have to follow the trend graph.

In the summer, you could some very fast run-offs, maybe big enough difference from the time of reading the guage to your actual arrival. In a snow melt on a warm day, it could well be by the time you arrive at a river, the flow is higher because warmer temps are contributing to a greater building run-off. Just some thoughts.

The more you run a river, the better sense of what it does in different seasons, with different weather conditions.


NOAA site indicated
that the reading was taken about an hour before I put in. I did notice that the actual readings were a little above the prediction lines for today, which should indicate that the water was dropping, but the actual readings seemed to be creeping up during the afternoon yesterday. I paddled at a similar gauge level about 6 weeks ago, but the weather had been unseasonably warm for the early part of the winter around here (Central Virginia) and turned about then.

feeder rivers
or watershed may affect paddling area as well. Have one local river(shepaug) where gage is right below the dam. Often get partners thinking it won’t be high enough, then when I insist on running, every one is happy. There’s another feeder river (bantam) with no gage and a huge watershed that affects actual paddling area (for us non crazies) dramatically.

Gauge Location?
If the gauge is up or downriver from where you paddled, consider that following local rain or thawing, a “hump” of high water can travel downriver, and you may be in that high water zone either before or after it reaches the gauge, depending on if the gauge is upstream or downstream from where you were at the time. Also, that hump of high water can be more likely to appear in your river at the mouth of a tributary creek and work its way downstream from there, and if the gauge is upstream from that location and there’s been less water input up there, the gauge may not show a rise that’s at all equivalent to what you saw at your location.

Shallow water drag can be significent
in very low water if the draw is just a few inches.

Another thing to consider is what gear you were wearing. A neo jacket with a Farmer John will give you quite a bit more of a workout than without it.