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.  Around 5pm, 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 web pages.

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 5 minutes during the day, every hour at night, and at the same time updates the Realtime report page (see the River Flows page for links to other formats).

Dreamflows maintains yet another database, called Fantasy Flows, which offers future flow predictions for select rivers (mostly in California and Nevada).  Flow information for most listed sites is supplied by the National Weather Service, while other entries give scheduled-release information, and still others are projections computed by Dreamflows.  All Fantasy Flows data is suspect for one reason or another, but can nevertheless provide a reasonable idea of what to expect.  Dreamflows updates this database around 9am and 5pm, and at the same time updates the Fantasy Flows report page (see the River Flows page for links to other formats).

Each of the above reports offers four formats.  All four offer substantially the same flow information, however the presentation and hence the intended applications are different. 

The flow information for most sites (all those without an "est", "rough", "fant" or "sched" next to them on the reports) is taken verbatim from an "official" source (e.g. CDEC or USGS).  In general this data is reasonably accurate and consistent, but any number of factors may cause error: for example river bed changes, gauge damage, transmission errors, out-of-date rating tables, etc.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".  Flows marked "fant" are even more prone to error than those marked "rough" - treat them only as trend predictors, not as actual future flows.  Please don't make expensive or time-consuming plans around any of these three kinds of flow estimate.  Flows marked "sched" are usually reliable, though beware: actual flows are almost always a little higher than advertised, and sometimes much higher.

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 sometimes do) change at a moment's notice.  This is all true!  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.  If in doubt, consult an expert or do something else today.

To reach the Cross-Listing page, click on the first (brown) link associated with that flow site.  The cross-listing page provides information on which runs are associated with each flow site on the Dreamflows report.  Each entry provides links to weather information, gauge location, flow ranges, maps of the area, and much more.  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.  Not all sites have associated "optimum" flows, and non-"optimum" flows can still be great fun.  So, is simply a way of saying: "Hey, don't forget about me!"

All flow-related dates and times use the local timezone in effect where 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 web page. 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 simple electronic pagers.  However, Dreamflows offers a Compact format that is suitable for 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 Dreamflows Admin posts river-related information when it's provided by government agencies or water and power utilities.  The Admin doesn't have the time (or inclination) to post messages on behalf of private paddlers, so if you're a paddler please post anything of interest yourself - particularly information about river hazards, flows, or access.

 Other Services and Features

The FAQ web page 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 Mon, Sep 18, 2017.