Friday, February 13, 2015

How deep is the Hocking River?

Well that depends on how much water is in the Hocking River, as well as where in the river you happen to be when you ask that question! 

Fortunately, the United States Geological Survey provides that answer.  The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) started keeping tabs on how much water is in rivers in 1889.  The first river was the Rio Grande in New Mexico to help determine if there was adequate water for irrigation purposes to encourage new development and western expansion. Since then the program has grown.  The USGS currently operates over 7,000 stream gauging stations nationwide. 

If you’ve ever seen a metal box about the size of a small closet sprouting antennae, near the bridge of a river overpass, you’ve seen one of these stations. These stream gauges provide streamflow information for a wide variety of uses including flood prediction, water management and allocation, engineering design, research, operation of locks and dams, and recreational safety and enjoyment.

As it turns out, the USGS has one of their stations just upriver from us. 
USGS station 03157500 Hocking River

 As an example, below is a screen shot from 7:00pm on January 9th of the daily discharge chart shown at the bottom of the page linked above, showing a CFS of 597.  Discharge measures the volume of the Hocking River in Cubic Feet per Second (CFS).

Most recent instantaneous value: 597   01-09-2015  19:00 EST

Daily discharge, cubic feet per second -- statistics for Jan 9 based on 82 years of record more
Most Recent
Value Jan 9

To understand Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS), imagine a slice taken out of the river water from top to bottom and bank to bank.  CFS is basically the amount of water that flows through that slice in one second.  The more water in the river, the higher it is. 

At least, that's the general gist, though in reality it’s a bit more complicated than that.  For our purposes however, it works nicely to think of it in such terms. 

We cross reference "The Most Recent Instantaneous Value" on the real time chart at the USGS site, (which updates every hour) with the chart below to guide us in determining operations.  There are other factors we take into consideration but the CFS is a major determining factor in issuing river trip restrictions for our trips.              

  • 59 or below .... Lower water levels, two people max per canoe
  • 60 - 699 .......... Normal river conditions
  • 300 ................. Low limit for running rafts
  • 700 – 999 ....... Experienced canoeists only, 8 year age limit
  • 1000 – 1799 .... Rafts only on the river
  • 1800 or more .. No river trips, Lake Logan only.
The online records for station 03157500 on the Hocking river only go back to 2007.  The highest CFS recorded since then was on March 20th, 2008 when the Hocking River peaked at Enterprise with over 12,000 CFS.  Records indicate that during the great flood of 1964, the stream gauging station near Athens recorded a CFS approaching 40,000.   

Luckily, the Hocking River is generally a calm smooth river with a few riffles, islands and sand bars, with both trips running on Class I water, perfect for beginners.  Even when the CFS is down to 30, the stretch we run is relatively navigable with only a few areas than may require stepping out of the boat to allow it to float over shallow areas.  Downstream from us are areas of the Hocking River where even at 50 CFS, one can literally step from bank to bank without much trouble.  

So, how deep is the Hocking river?  In normal conditions the depth of the river varies from inches to about 9 feet, depending of course, on where you're standing! The deepest is mid-river, directly in front of our landing.  Occasionally however mother nature intervenes and The Hocking River becomes a place where standing at all, is simply not an option!  
Seeking the lowest point, humility gives water its power

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