F. A. Q.
We installed an online gauge in 2015 for the whitewater section of the Ottawa river. It is a free resource, and always will be so. There have been a number of questions that we have been asked about this project, so hopefully you find the information here useful.
Why? 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 was a technical challenge, 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? The gauge project has cost several thousand dollars, and hundreds of hours of development work over the years. This would not have been possible without our sponsors - please support them.
How are you going to make that money back? If you wish to support this with some sponsorship, that would be fantastic! The continued existence of this 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? We are continuing with some developments, looking at new sites on other rivers.
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 ice-proof. It will report readings year-round, but in the winter it will just be reading where the ice shelf is.
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 throughout the season. It might mean that you don't make as many wasted journeys to the river though.
How accurate is it? Depending upon the level, it is usually good to within about 15mm, and the calibration with the OWL gauge is good to 1/8 ft in low water.
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!