The Ozark Mountains are formed by an intricate network of creeks and rivers flowing in every imaginable direction, often contrary to one’s good sense. Most of these are not damn-controlled, so water levels are determined by unpredictable weather and the amount of rainfall it brings. All these factors can make deciding which river to paddle on any given day a daunting task. Fortunately there are two easy to use websites that provide all the necessary tools to choose the best river no matter where the rain has fallen. For those looking for a relaxing, mellow float down a meandering stream check out – www.americanwhitewater.org. You’ll want to put your cursor over the River Info tab and select National River Database and then click on the state you’re in. Next you’ll see a color-coded, alphabetical list of every major river in that state. The colorless have no information, the red is too low to float, green is good to go, and blue means it’s dangerously high. These colors correspond to the current water level and are updated every few hours. Within the green rivers they are described as Lower Runnable when there is just enough water to get down with minimal dragging, Runnable when the level is just right, and Upper Runnable when the current is swifter and things begin to get dangerous. Selecting an individual river section will take you to a page usually full of details about that section. There will also be a Flow Info tab that shows a graph of the river level as it changes over time. This is useful when trying to determine if the water level will still be good by the time you get there. There are also a number of other useful tabs that can be explored at your leisure.
Another very helpful site that I like to use is at: www.ozarkpages.com/cgi-bin/stages.pl. Scroll directly to the bottom of the page and study the Key to understand how to read this chart. The coolest feature of this site is that you can organize the information by whatever you are looking for: name, level, rating, or size. So if you want a novice float click the rating heading and all the easiest rivers will jump to the top of the page. The size information makes determining if the water will still be good when you get there a lot easier. Smaller rivers drop out faster and have a smaller window of opportunity. This levels page also shows whether the level is rising, dropping, or steady. Smaller rivers should still be rising when you are on your way, bigger ones can be dropping and still remain floatable.