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Bull Shoals Dam Generation in Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS)

The above graph does NOT show releases (if there are any) from the spillway gates.  In times of high water on Bull Shoals Lake it is best to watch announcements on the Little Rock Corp Of Engineers Facebook website to see what is happening concerning any spillway releases (which would be in addition to Power Releases shown on the above graph).

IF (repeat IF) running at full capacity,
at Bull Shoals Dam each put out 3300 CFS (on average). Divide CFS in green graph above by 3300 (or just 3000) to get approx. actual (equivalent of full capacity) generators online. This will not usually match the phone recorded message.  Important.... Reload this page to update graph if you have been here before.
Why White River Water Levels Don't Always Match Recorded Phone Recording

Why is it best to look at Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS) flows rather than "number of generators" online from the Bull Shoals Dam telephone recorded message?

If you call the Bull Shoals Dam recording (870-431-5311) to see how many generators are running, you probably are aware that it sometimes does not give a clear picture of the water levels in the White River.

There are a number of reasons for this; mainly:
#1  Generators are quite often run at less than full capacity.  The recorded message "counts" a generator running at 20% (for example) capacity as "online" just the same as one running at 100% capacity..
#2  The 8 generators are not equal capacity.  The 4 newer ones are bigger.  The voice recording just reports that; for example, 3 generators are online, but actually 2 could be running at 75% capacity and 1 at 50% or anything else. 

Also, looking at the CFS provides a clearer picture of what happened before.  An example would be that you call the dam in the morning and it says zero generators online, but you get to the river and find fairly high water.  Most likely, they were running a lot of water last night.  They sometimes attempt to report this on the recording but it is not always very clear. 

"How To Easily Get A More Complete Idea Of What The River Level Is Right Now"

(this explanation looks more complicated than it actually is)

Rather than calling the Recorded Tel # 870-431-5311 you can use your smartphone or computer to access more detailed info.  Each report shows about 36 hours of past generation history.

The water will travel about 2-4 MPH.  The more generators they turn on the faster it will flow.  At cotter, 18 miles below the Dam, we figure 5-6 hours (very wide average) for it to get here.   A map showing the mileages from the Dam to points along the river is here.  The water will fall out slower than it arrives. 
Click image below for larger.                
This detailed info is available at this link.
Put that in your browser, on your computer or cellphone..............
And it looks like this>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Other than the first two columns (date and time), the column you want is column #5 (Turbine Release - CFS).

1) Each generator at Bull Shoals is 3300 CFS (average) at full capacity.

2) Looking at the sample at the right, you can see that around midnight on Feb 3rd they started some generation and by 1 AM Feb 4th they were at 1226 CFS.  This is less than 1/2 of one generator.

3) I am writing this at 7:30 AM Feb 4th and just downloaded the file at the right.  I also just called the Dam Tel# (870-431-5311).  The Tel Recording says generation began about midnight and they are running two generators.  They probably ARE running 2 generators, but only at something like 25% of full capacity (each).

4) When will it get here?  At 1AM on Feb 4th, they started some small (1226 CFS) generation.  I would expect to see a very small water rise around 9-10 AM (using the lower 2MPH because they only turned on less than 1/2 of one generator).  18 miles divided by 2MPH = 9hours.
At Rim Shoals, about 24 miles below the Dam, I would expect the water will not rise until at least 12 hours from 1AM, etc.  Important (especially if you are wading) >>> Unless they turn on more generators since you looked at this data.

If you are going fishing today, and just call the Tel#, you might expect there is (or will be shortly) quite a bit of water (the 2 generators it reported) except it might not be at Cotter quite yet (18 miles below the Dam).

You get to the river (Cotter) at 8AM with your boat and find it is pretty much dead low. Which is fine for fishing, just not what you were expecting and you may be restricted between shoals if you are not planning to shuttle and don't want to get out and push back over the downstream shoal.    Or, much worse, if you want to wade, you might not go at all because you think 2 generators might be too high. 

Also, and very important,  from the recording, you do not know what was happening before midnight. 

By looking at this data, I can see it has been turned off since 1:00 AM Feb 3rd.  Therefore, at Cotter, 18 miles below the Dam, I would expect it to be pretty much dead low (and it is)

Southwestern Power Administration has a telephone recording (866-494-1993) of projected generation that is sometimes very close.  And it projects it "as the equivalent of" so many generators online. 

This, in fact, would be a big improvement to the Corp of Engineers current generation report at (870-431-5311).  For instance, instead of "4 generators online', if they could report it as "the equivalent of" 3 generators online and so on.

The message to take from the above information is; if you are calling the Bull Shoals Dam number (870-431-5311) from Texas and waiting for wade-able water or low water or high water don't believe everything you hear!

The White River is eminently fish-able 365 days a year. 

More Info:

The Newport gauge (stage/height) is a key "control" or determinant of what the Corp of engineers can do relative to "non-power" releases from Bull Shoals Dam.

The following (in italics) is from the Corp of Engineer FAQ page.

What are the regulating stages in the current Water Control Plan?
The water control plan, simply stated, says releases from Beaver are dependent upon the elevation in Table Rock and Bull Shoals Lakes; releases from Table Rock are dependent upon the elevation in Bull Shoals Lake; and releases from Bull Shoals and Norfork are dependent upon the seasonal regulating stage at Newport, Arkansas. Release criteria for the lakes was developed more specifically based upon the pool elevation, pool elevation of downstream lakes, the time of year, and downstream river conditions.

• From 1 December through 14 April - Regulate to 21 feet except, if a natural rise exceeding 21 feet occurs, regulate to the lesser of the observed crest or 24 feet.

• From 15 April through 7 May - Regulate to 14 feet except, regulate to 21 feet, from 15 April through 30 April, and 18 feet, from 1 May through 14 May, if the four-lake system storage exceeds 50% full.
• From 8 May through 30 November - Regulate to 12 feet except, regulate to 14 feet from 15 May through 30 November, if the 4-lake system storage exceeds 70% full.
• Release a minimum of firm power and in extreme cases zero if a significant reduction in critical downstream flood conditions is possible.
• Prorate the flood control releases between Bull Shoals and Norfork to maintain equal percentages of available flood control storage in NF and the BV-TR-BS.
• Release a maximum of 32,500 cfs from BS and 10,500 cfs from NF subject to a 50,000 cfs flow limit at Batesville.
• Curtail secondary power generation—releases exceeding firm power—until six days after the crest at Newport. Secondary power releases should provide that stages above the regulating stage continue to recede until the regulating stage is reached.

Detailed White River FAQ from Corp of Engineers.

Projected and current lake water levels are available at: Lake Levels.
Current Releases from Bull Shoals Lake into the White River is available at: White River Releases.
You can also call 870-431-5311 for recorded message about current generation at Bull Shoals.

All White River Lakes and relevant Gauges

Beaver Lake

Table Rock Lake

Bull Shoals Lake

Norfork Lake

Newport Gauge

Map of the White River is available at: White River Map.

There are six gauges on the Buffalo River to check water levels:Boxley, Ponca, PruittCarver, St. Joe and Harriett
Map of the Buffalo River is available at: Buffalo River Map.

Contact Us

Ron and Debbie Gamble


P.O. Box 96

Cotter, Arkansas 72626

Local: 870-435-6525

Toll Free: 800-447-7538