Tips for painting an RC river gauge

In this area (Va.-Md.-WV), a gauge painted on a bridge piling that indicates “canoe zero” is sometimes called a Randy Carter gauge, or RC gauge. I’d love to know how that name developed, Randy Carter’s story, if there is one, and if painted gauges are called RC gauges in other parts of the country. Anybody know?

Over the last year I have had a hard time reading the RC gauge on the Bel Air Rd Bridge across the Lower Gunpowder River. It is old and faded. I’ll be up there Saturday to peruse a possible conservation project. It is dry here now, so probably a good time to repaint the gauge.

If anybody out there has gauge-painting wisdom to share, please do. Any particular kind of paint to use? I’m thinking I ought to knock the grime off the bridge pier with a wire brush. Any tips?

Any chance of being busted for vandalism?


Never heard RC gauge
I’ve heard “Flintstone Gauge”, “Boater’s Gauge”, and even “Pumpkin Gauge” after an enterprising kayaker made a nice template for painting gauges on bridges.

First I’d want to find out who owns it and is supposed to maintain it. American Whitewater (they have a web site) can probably answer this. Yes you could definately be charged with a crime if someone wanted to complain.

Bill H.

Randy Carter
I don’t know much about Randy Carter other than he was a canoer who explored and paddled a lot of streams in the VA,WV,NC area back in the 50’s and 60’s. When I started WW paddling back in the mid 70’s I got a copy of his book “Canoeing White Water River Guide” which had a lot of old photos of him and his paddling friends running streams in aluminum canoes without PFDs, helmets and other safety gear we take for granted now. His river ratings were pretty conservative, probably due to the equipment available to him at the time.

As I recall, some of the old paddlers I met said the gauges he painted marked what he considered the minimum level for a WW run. I think some of the eastern paddling clubs still preserve his gauge marks on several streams. You might want to talk to someone from a group like the Monocacy Canoe Club about the legal and ethical implications of re-painting an RC gauge.


Job Done!
The easiest jobs are those that are done before you get there, and that’s what happened on the LGP gauge.

I found out from a GBCC member the name of the individual who was known to repaint the guage and sent him an email, thinking I didn’t want to tick off somebody by paddling in their pond, so to speak. He is planning to screw a 3-D gauge to the bridge pier because the painted gauge is always hard to see. Okay, I figured I’d just slap fresh paint on the pier to improve the visibility until the attachment of the 3-D gauge.

But, after meeting with the park’s trail technician about improvements to the take-out, I went over to Bel Air Rd and carried my bucket of paint supplies down to the bridge. Oh my! The gauge markings were screaming at me in gleaming fresh white paint. Check it off–job done. Nice job by whoever did it.


RC Gauges
Randy Carter designed the gauges so other canoeist could figure the minimal amount of water to float solo to the next take out. There are a couple of books published by him that will help but they are difficult to find. Thus “zero” on the gauge is it. I am a member of the Randy Chapter, Float Fishermen of Virginia. To paint the gauges we have a template and any good exterior paint will work. The template is basically the same that DOT uses for the water levels on the low lying portions of highways. Hope this helps you.

on the Rappahannock
the Class II-III rapids by the big rock at river center just below the I-95 bridge are known as “Randy Carter Rapids”, or more aptly, “Randy Never Saw It”, due to the fact that until 2004 that section was flooded by Embrey Dam.