Nothing quite beats the satisfaction of sipping an ice cold beverage after winning the bet on how high flows on the local run would get this season. If you’ve never had such satisfaction, then this guide is for you. Predicting flows is also useful for planning paddling trips to rivers without gauges, or getting a snapshot of what flows to expect in a given season. So, without further adieu, here are a few tips to help you win some bets and impress your friends when you correctly predict levels before showing up to the river:
1. Get a good weather app and check multiple forecasts/models.
I personally use the app Windy, you can check multiple forecast models and the interface is beautiful. Its strongest points are long term rain predictions, but it works equally as well to check and anticipate temperatures. If Windy isn’t your jam, SpotWX.com is a second good option, despite lacking a mobile app.
- Check historical flow data and compare conditions to previous years.
This can be as complicated or a simple as you like and it gets easier as you get older and remember what made those levels. Water Office lets you look at historical river flows from waaay back and can help you get an idea of what an average peak is for your river of interest.
- Three Words: Snow. Pillow. Data.
Every time I hear them I think of taking a nap on a glacier, but the snow pillow data is possibly the best resource for predicting levels on snow fed rivers. Essentially a snow gauge up in the mountains that updates daily, you can watch the winter snow accumulate, and you can watch in the spring as it dwindles thus pumping up river levels.
- Read the river forecast center bulletins.
Both British Columbia and Alberta hire hydrologists whose full time job it is to predict seasonal flows on the provinces rivers. They’re way better at it than you will ever be, and even better, they publish their reports online for free so you can mine their intellectual content to win silly river level bets…
AB: https://rivers.alberta.ca/ (Check the forecasters comments & water supply links in the drop down navigation bar located in the top left corner of the page)
- Pay attention to flow patterns every year.
Even with all these resources, little beats an intimate knowledge of the river in question. However, you will only build an intimate knowledge if you pay close attention to flows year in, year out. Watch them closely every season and learn from your mistakes! Notes in your river log/river journal go a long way in helping you remember what conditions led to what flows in the past…
Best of luck and happy paddling,