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Driving the Missouri river (Read 989 times)
05/01/12 at 18:58:47
4X MR340 Veteran
4X Gritty Fitty Veteran
Gritty Fitty Record Holder
MR340 Safety Boat Pilot
I watched during the recent missouri river shootout some folks not run the river very efficiently (I will not mention names...but it was more than one boat I observed...but as I was racing it was all good
). This is not only a way to give up some time in a race..but can also lead to getting into "hard water"..i.e. wing dams just under water and much more challenging hydraulics (reverse flow, whirlpools and pushy water)..and so has a saftey element to it, especially at night. Basically the river has signs posted telling you where to go...kind of like stop signs, red and green lights and turning lane indicators when you are driving a car. Imagine driving a car in country with a different language...you could do it, but you would not be safe or very good at getting where you want to go.
So I recomend all those who paddle (let alone race) learn how to read the "road signs" on the river. This will make you a faster racer, a safer paddler and have one additional facet. If a barge is coming...they have to stay in the channel, and you have to move out of their way (that is not just survival..its the law)...if you know where the "main driving lane" (channel) is...you then know where the barge will be going and where you can go to get by them or to wait them out till they pass (not really required in my view).
once you know where the channel is (see link below) then here are some additional tips on keeping speed on river and being safer at night. Stay out from shore 25 feet, even when in the channel. The river scrubs velocity near the bank and the flow will be less...you will feel faster there, cause shore is close and moving fast, but that is an illusion, a GPS will tell you that you have lost 1-2 mph. Stay away from the tips of wing dams (even when under water...typically an issue on inside of bends, when trying to cut a corner)...there is at best slow water in these locations and sometimes up stream flow due to reverse hydraulics....give the wing dam at least 25 feet of clearance to avoid getting pulled into this suck water.
Here is link that is one of the better explanations of the navigations system. Keep in mind all the explanations are "returning to source"...which means green channel markers are actually on right when going down river and red on left (when going down river)...but here is my strong advice, channel markers are constantly moving out of place on missouri river (these are the green and red in river "drums" used to show a barge the channel)...I ignore them for the most part and just try NOT to hit them ....the shore "beacons" are your ticket...as they will tell you which side of the river the channel is on...when to cross the river to the otherside at a bend and where the faster (and safter) water is.
You will be a much better "missouri river driver" if you learn how to read the road signs on the river.
river is as river does
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Reply #1 -
06/19/12 at 12:30:41
4X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot
Kawnivore Safety Boat Pilot
Whoop Up, MO
First a disclaimer: I am a floater, not a paddler (unless dragged into a 30 mile upriver paddle by Big Muddy Mike...no floating allowed there!) But I do spend a lot of time on the river and have floated and boated many miles.
Great job getting the word out Bryan. Knowledge is power!
I have done "sweep boat" on several races, following the slowest paddler. I have noticed that, without exception, the last paddlers in any race will ALWAYS be the ones that think "cutting off the bends" will save them time. Of course this is really an issue when the river is above the wing dikes, when you can actually paddle on the inside of a bend all the way around, but the same goes for lower water.
When you take the inside of a bend, even if the dikes are out, you will encounter confused water, swirling, slower patches and even eddies that move upstream. Watch the bubbles in the water. They tell a story.
Now I always try to describe to people why they are hurting themselves by taking the "shortest distance between two points" and invariably, they will shake their heads like I'm crazy and try to cut off the next bend.
At last year's Race to the Dome I followed just such a character all the way to the end. He was WAY behind everyone else, god bless him!
And it occurred to me that there must be a visual way to quickly show this phenomena to racers so they get it right away. I asked Robb Jacobson, a hydrogeomorphologist that is the Chief of River Studies at USGS (and probably the smartest person I know) if he had a map that could show velocity on the river in terms of color coding.
He sent me two maps. Both are at relatively low water, so the picture would be different if the river level was above the wing dikes. But it is very informative on how the velocity on the river can be drastically different at places very close by. It also shows how sometimes there can be fast water right off the tip of a wing d**e, but that may be followed by a patch of much slower water that extends further into the river.
The link to the attached map is at the bottom of this post. This a two-pager. The first is a simple color coded map by velocity. The second is color coded by depth, and shows different current flows using arrows of varying lengths. Keep in mind: these are METERS per second. It really gets instructive when you zoom in on these things.
The first map is the bend at Cooper's Landing, Rivermile 170. The second is a longer reach, extending down to Wilton, MO, about 161.
Now, there are a lot of factors that determine YOUR speed, including your boat's drag, wind, etc. Trying to micromanage where you are in the river can be frustrating and counterproductive. But when you encounter slower patches, think about where you are on the river, what river structures are around you and where the channel is headed next.
The best advice I've heard is to stay toward the outside of the middle third of the river. And remember that right next to shore can be unexpected submerged dikes as well as a patch of slower water.
See you on the river!
Missouri River Relief
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