Dreamflows General Information
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 Flow Reports

Dreamflows is a fully automated system that polls the Internet for stream and reservoir data, and stores it in a database.  It also estimates the flows at some sites, based on the flows at other, known, sites.  It correlates all this flow data and uses it to create a daily report.  Dreamflows emails the report to all subscribers who requested one on that day, and at the same time updates the current Daily Dreamflows report webpages.

Note that the above webpage offers three formats.  All three offer substantially the same flow information, however the presentation and hence the intended applications are different.  Standard Format presentation is tabular, suitable for a standard desktop computer, e.g. a Mac or PC.  The higher resolution monitor the better - 1280x1024 being ideal, though 1024x768 should still work well.  If you're using 800x600 - or worse yet 640x480 pixels - then you may want to consider either switching to a higher resolution or going with Compact Format instead.  Compact reports, which are in a list format, are intended for use with handheld devices like an iPhone, but are also suitable for low-resolution desktop monitors.  The last format, CSV (Comma-Separated Values), is provided so you can load the report flow data into a spreadsheet or database.

Dreamflows also maintains a separate database, with realtime flow information for select rivers (currently California and Nevada only), including a number of estimated flows.  Dreamflows updates this database every 30 minutes during the day, every hour at night, and at the same time updates the Realtime report page.

Note that the above link is to the Standard Format realtime report.  See the River Flows page for links to Compact and CSV formats.

The information for most sites (all those without an "est" or "rough" next to them) is taken verbatim from an "official" flow site (e.g. CDEC or USGS).  In other words, Dreamflows reports information taken directly from the Internet.  In general this data is reasonably accurate and consistent, but any number of factors may cause error: for example river bed changes due to a flood, gauge damage, transmission errors, out-of-date rating tables, etc.  Reporting flows is not always an exact science!

Flows that are marked "est" are estimates, calculated by applying mathematical formulae to flows at other sites.  In effect, statistical methods are used to estimate the flow.  Many of the flows estimated in this way should be quite close to the actual flows, but some could be wildly off.  Flows marked "rough" are even more prone to error than those marked "est".  Please don't make expensive or time-consuming plans around either kind of flow estimate.

The Dreamflows disclaimer makes it clear that the reported flow information reflects conditions only at the time measurements were taken ... and that flows can (and do) change at a moment's notice.  Therefore, please use these flows for planning trips, not for deciding whether or not to put on the river once there.  Use your judgement at the put-in or take-out, whichever is more appropriate, to estimate the actual flow for yourself.  Then compare the characteristics of the river at this flow to your skills, and decide if putting on is right for you.

Each of the flow sites listed in the report has a link to the corresponding Dreamflows Cross-Listing page.  This page provides information on which runs are associated with each flow site on the Dreamflows report.  Links to weather information for the area around each flow site are provided.  Click on the weather symbol for weather information.  Gauge location information, in both verbal and map form, is also provided for most flow sites.  To access the cross-listing information for a given flow site, click on the first (brown) link associated with that flow site.  Note that reports via email in TEXT-ONLY format don't offer this feature, but all other formats do.

Many (but not all) of the flow sites listed in the report have links to graphs showing recent flows.  This can be useful for seeing trends and patterns, and for obtaining the very latest flows.  To display the graph for a given river, click on the second (blue) link.  Note that reports via email in TEXT-ONLY format don't offer this feature, but all other formats do.

Sites that have a next to them are currently considered to be at or near "optimum" flow, based on guide books, Internet sources and personal experience.  Of course, that's hugely subjective.  Note also that there's a big difference between "optimum" and "runnable", and not all sites have associated "optimum" flows.  So, is simply a way of saying: "Hey, don't forget about me!"

All flow-related dates and times are for the local timezone in effect where (and when) the data was recorded.  For California, this means all flow data is reported in Pacific Time.  This is PDT (7 hours behind GMT) in summer, and PST (8 hours behind GMT) in winter.  However, some States (e.g. Oregon) span two time zones, so although most flow data for Oregon is reported in Pacific Time, some data in the eastern part is reported in Mountain Time.

The online reports (though currently not emailed reports) feature a dynamic linking mechanism into the bulletin board.  This offers you an easy way to zero in on topics that apply to a particular flow site.  Amongst other things, it also offers you a way to start a new topic applicable to a particular flow site.  For more information, visit the relevant help page.

Dreamflows reports instantaneous rate of change for certain free-flowing rivers (or dam-controlled rivers that are currently spilling).  Standard statistical curve-fitting methods are used in these calculations.  The underlying assumption is that the flows are changing reasonably smoothly.  However, river flows often change suddenly due to rain, snow melt, cold, etc., causing the river to rise (or fall) abruptly.  In this case the reported rate of change may be misleading.

Dreamflows doesn't call Ranger Stations or flow phones to get its information; in general it gets all its information off the Internet.  If you should know of a web site that gives interesting flow information not in the Dreamflows report, please let me know; that site may well appear in the next report!  Alternatively if you are prepared to check a gauge on the river, or phone a reliable source of flow information, and enter the data into Dreamflows yourself, please let me know.  This is a great way to give back to the paddling community.

To sign up for Dreamflows reports via email, please visit the Email Reports webpage. You can customize the reports that are sent to you to some extent, but please note that all the reports are relatively large.  This means that Dreamflows reports via email aren't suitable for use with simple electronic pagers.  However, Dreamflows offers a Compact format that is suitable for use with hand-held mobile devices like an iPhone.


Dreamflows Alerts is another automated flow reporting tool.  There are two broad classes of alert - Bulletin Board Alerts, and Flow Alerts.

Bulletin Board Alerts send you email when new messages are posted to the bulletin board.  The principal intended use is to alert you when a new hazard is posted to the bulletin board, though you can control which flow sites and which forums you receive alerts for.

Flow Alerts send you an alert when the flows on rivers of your choice rise above, and/or fall below, levels which you set.  This frees you from checking Dreamflows constantly, letting you know when a hard-to-catch river starts running.

 Bulletin Board

The Dreamflows Bulletin Board is provided as a means for paddlers to share river-related information.  The BBS Admin posts messages of relevance to the paddling community when it's provided by government agencies or utilities.  The Admin doesn't have the time (or inclination) to post messages on behalf of private paddlers, so if you're a private paddler please post anything of interest yourself - particularly information about river hazards, flows, or access.

 Other Services and Features

The FAQ webpage answers many frequently asked questions about Dreamflows operation.

Dreamflows offers many other services and features, for instance loading reports into Excel, online guidebooks, rating tables, useful links, photographs, to name a few.  For the complete list of options available to you, please visit the sitemap.

Please send any comments or suggestions for improvement you may have to chris@dreamflows.com

This page was last updated Thu, Oct 1, 2015.