As a retailer that sells paddlesports and other outdoor products based in Central Texas, we anxiously await any chance for rain; gazing at the sky for dark clouds, eyeing weather radars online, and turning up the volume on the TV when the forecaster makes an appearance, all for even the slightest chance of rain to fill our creeks, rivers, and lakes… so we can paddle!

Checking USGS charts could've proven the greenbelt was dry at the Land Bridge this day. (photo by Andrew Torrey /

Yesterday, a customer came by our warehouse to pick up an item he ordered from our online store and while he was there he mentioned an online service provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that is a fantastic resource for paddlers and outdoor adventurers, among others. The USGS has a site that provides water flow data for the entire country. He said he could check their site for water flow information that would indicate whether or not a certain waterway was viable for paddling or swimming and mentioned he’d probably try to paddle the following day based on the information he got from the site. Since the rain is hit or miss in Central Texas (mostly miss) and we can’t be too sure where the levels are without actually going, the USGS site is an excellent resource to “know before you go”.

The Land Bridge at the greenbelt with a little more water. That's yours truly jumping in. (photo collage by Thomas Allison /

For example, I like to go out to the greenbelt above Barton Springs in Austin, Texas to hike, run, climb, cliff jump, and swim (and I’ve even seen kayaks out there but there’s rarely enough water). I often want to go out to some of my favorite spots on the weekends but until now, I haven’t had a way to see if there might be any water there without actually going. Now with the recent rains we’ve had in Austin, the USGS site shows ~3-4 feet of water in the greenbelt. While that might not be enough to cliff jump or paddle, I could probably still find a spot to jump in and cool off after a long run or hike, which is always welcome in our Texas summer heat and I can monitor the levels to see if they become viable for cliff jumping or kayaking later on.

Our San Marcos store uses the water flow charts frequently since there are several rivers nearby, and even though I’ve mentioned Texas-specific waterways, you can utilize this service in any state. Just check out the handy infographic below to see how! Clicking on the image takes you straight to the USGS site. Do you have another favorite water-related resource like this one? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

– Trent @ACK

You can use this infographic to get started checking water flows in your area, even if you're not in Austin! (click above to be taken to the site)