The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Introduction

Intro: Memphis: Water Levels

For this portion of Rivergator Trail we refer to the Memphis Gauge which we’ll denote as “MG.”  Further downstream (at Mhoon Landing) we’ll switch over to the Helena Gauge which we’ll denote as “HG.”  For daily river levels and weekly forecasts, go to

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lmrfc/?n=lmrfc-mississippiandohioriverforecast

 

Water levels according to the Memphis Gauge

 

Low Water = -5 to 15 MG 

Medium Water = 15 to 25 MG

High Water = 25 to 34 MG

Flood Stage = 34 MG and above

MG = Memphis Gauge

 

Flood Stage Warning: above 34 MG paddlers are advised to stay off the river.  Limited access.  Most landings and approach roads will be underwater.  Most islands will be gone.  No easy camping.  All sandbars will be covered.  Fast waters with many hazards.  All islands and landings will be surrounded by flooded forests full of snags, strainers, sawyers and all other dangerous conditions associated with floodwater moving through trees.  Docks, wharves, dikes and any other man-made objects will create strong whirlpools, violent boils, and fast eddies.  Towboats will create large waves.  The Rivergator will not describe the river and its islands at any levels above flood stage. 

 

Lower Mississippi and Ohio River Forecast

The Lower Mississippi and Ohio River Forecast is a fascinating document and will reveal many qualities of the river to the careful reader and interpreter of this gauge.  You can also jump from this page following its links to many associated NOAA pages full of useful information about the various Lower Mississippi River Gauges, as well as historical records, flood records, low water occurrences, observed precipitation throughout the valley, snowpack, ground saturation, rain forecasts, and other meteorologic and hydrologic aspects leading to current river conditions and accurate predictions.  You can also follow links to the same for readings and predictions from the Ohio River Valley, the Middle Miss, Upper Miss and Missouri River Valleys, which all of course confluence and combine to form the big waters of the Lower Mississippi River.  The River forecasts typically include “water on the ground and forecast for next 24 hrs,” which is good to be aware when planning multi-day river trips.

 

Water Levels and Dikes

In the Memphis area you can use the following scale to gauge water flowing over dikes, although some dikes vary in height.  Also some have been “notched” in recent years as result there will be a middle notch that you can paddle through at much lower levels of water, some places down to 0 Memphis Gauge.

 

Using the Memphis Gauge:

1-9 MG water flowing through notches only

10 MG - rocks still exposed on all dikes 

11-12 MG dikes starting to go under, some flow through breaks & low spots

13 MG dikes completely under, but little flow

15-20 MG  good flow and lots of boils & turbulence

20 MG strong flow, turbulence, no dikes exposed anywhere

30 MG river bank full

>34 MG Flood Stage.

 

Warning: above 34 MG paddlers are advised to stay off the river.  Limited access.  Most landings and approach roads will be underwater.  Most islands will be gone.  No easy camping.  All sandbars will be covered.  Fast waters with many hazards.  All islands and landings will be surrounded by flooded forests full of snags, strainers, sawyers and all other dangerous conditions associated with floodwater moving through trees.  Docks, wharves, dikes and any other man-made objects will create strong whirlpools, violent boils, and fast eddies.  Towboats will create large waves.  The Rivergator will not describe the river and its islands at any levels above flood stage.