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GloryDaze

Usgs Water Level

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I'm planning a trip on the Big Piney- Mason Bridge to Ross the first week in May. I haven't floated this river in 3 years and forgot what level (near Big Piney according to USGS) is considered good for fishing and when it is considered high and dangerous.

Can anyone help me with this??

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i have never floated this river but i have done quite a bit of studying the USGS river levels and by the looks of this one the normal height of the river for this time of year is between 3.0 and 3.5.

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The river level graph on the gage site is useless unless you already know what level is normal and what is too high. But the flow in cfs graph is the one you should be using, along with the table that has the heading "daily discharge statistics, in cfs...". With it, you can get a pretty good idea of what the river is doing and what is floatable and fishable. Here's how:

On the graph, you'll see those little triangles. Those signify the median flow for each day, based upon all the years of record for that gage. That's the figure that means that 50% of the time the river was lower than that on the given day, 50% it was higher. It's a pretty good approximation of the "normal" flow for that day. If the river level is pretty close to those triangles, the river is pretty close to normal.

Now look at the table. On it you'll see the "most recent instantaneous value", which is what the river is flowing right then (within an hour or two). You'll also see the "median", which is the flow that corresponds to the little triangle for the day on the graph. That's the "normal" flow. And you'll also see, along with some other figures, the "80th percentile" figure. The river has flowed less than that figure on the given day 80% of the years of record. It's actually a decent approximation of the high end of floatable and fishable flow.

So, today (April 18th) the Big Piney near Big Piney, MO was flowing 686 cfs. Median flow for today is 575 cfs, so the river is somewhat above normal. But the 80th percentile figure is 1340 cfs. So the river is well below that figure, and much closer to the median. So...it's slightly above normal but not enough above normal to be significant. If it was flowing, say, 1200 cfs, it would be getting a little marginal, and if it was flowing 1500 cfs it would almost certainly be too high.

Another thing to note...in the fishing report that somebody gave for April 15-16, the river was obviously floatable and fishable. Looking at the graph, you'll see that the river was dropping from about 1000 cfs at the beginning of the 15th to 800 cfs at the end of the 16th. So that also tells you that the river is very floatable and fishable at 1000 cfs. You can also start to get an idea of how river level corresponds to flow by comparing the two graphs. It was dropping from about 4.5 to about 4.25 during that time. So now you know that it's floatable and fishable at 4.5 in mid-April. Early May shouldn't be considerably different than that.

So, I'm guessing that as long as the river level is no more than 4.75 you should be good. 5 would be getting iffy. Of course, you also have to look at what the river has been doing in the last few days. A reading of 4.75 that's in the middle of a drop from a much higher level could still mean muddy water. A reading of that when it's still going up could mean the same or worse. But a reading of 4.75 when it's starting to drop after a slightly higher rise would be more likely to be okay.

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