Ottawa Gauge sponsored by;
F. A. Q.
We have installed an online gauge for the whitewater section of the Ottawa river. This will hopefully be an asset to the paddling community. It is a free resource, and always will be so. There have already been a number of questions that we have been asked about this project, so hopefully you find the information here useful.
Why? This is 2015! There are increasing numbers of publicly accessible gauges on a range of rivers. The Ottawa river is probably the most popular whitewater section in Canada this side of the Rockies - it is long overdue that there is an online gauge available.
Yes, but why Shaggy Designs? We are local paddlers, we want to know the level as well! It is a technical challenge that was solvable with technology that has recently become widely available. It was fun to try something new. The extra website traffic here also isn't a bad thing for us.
How? Briefly, the height of the river is sensed using an ultrasonic rangefinder (similar to the sensors in your car that help you parallel park without hitting other vehicles). The information is transmitted to our webserver via the GPRS (cellphone) network, and some php script on our server draws a nice graph for the website. We will be producing a technical document in the future that goes into a bit more detail.
That sounds like it cost a lot? Not really - total cost has so far been about $1300, and 200 hours of development work over the past year or so. For a remote telemetry system, that is quite inexpensive. Ongoing costs are about $100 per year.
How are you going to make that money back? That is not the point! Having said that, if you wish to support this with some sponsorship, then great. The continued existence of the gauge will not depend upon if we get sponsorship or not. The gauge will always be free to use, and available on this or a similar website.
What next? Make the system more reliable, and improve the calibration against the OWL gauge.
Why haven't I heard about this before? We decided that we wanted to make sure that we could produce an accurate, reliable system before we went public. Not wanting to promise and then not deliver!
Where is it? Somewhere on the river.
I have found out where it is! Have a gold star for being observant. Please don't mess with it.
When will it be available? The gauge is intended for the use of the whitewater community, so we haven't gone to the extra effort and expense of making it winter-proof. We will remove it in the fall, and re-install every spring.
Will this mean that the lineups at Garb/Bussy/etc get longer? Probably not - there are already other sources of the river level that get updated daily throught the season. It might mean that you don't make as many wasted journeys to the river though.
How accurate is it? It is a bit early to give a definite figure, and we are refining the calibration against the existing OWL gauge every time the level changes. Hopefully it will be useful. Early indications are that rapid changes in temperature make it less accurate by up to 1/8 Ft.
Should I rely on it? No - if you need to know the level on the OWL gauge (if you are a rafting company for example), then checking the OWL gauge is your only way to know for sure. We will do our best to make this as useful as possible, but don't blame us if you go paddling and Garb/Bussy/etc isn't exacly the way you like it. We are dealing with mother nature (and Quebec hydro!), and sometimes things change quickly.
Can you put one on another river for me? Probably - get in touch!
Please don't rely on this information! It could be out by a bit, or it might be completely wrong. We may have put the gauge on the wrong river without noticing it. The Ottawa river might be a figment of our imagination and have no bearing upon reality as you experience it. Your coffee might be hot. Knives are sharp and should always be used with adult supervision. The existence or non-existence of any supernatural being, god, spirit or fairy is beyond our control, and no responsibility for your prayers being listened to or acted upon will be assumed by us, our agents or subcontractors. We can not guarantee that your knives are sharp. We did not invent the Algorithm. If in doubt; scout!