Catch a Rainbow!
Shoals Dam Generation in Cubic
Feet Per Second (CFS)
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
to see what is happening
concerning any spillway
would be in
Releases shown on
the above graph).
IF running at full
capacity, generators 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
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?
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.
a number of reasons for this; mainly:
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..
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
detailed info is available at this
To Easily Get A More Complete
Idea Of What The River Level Is
(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.
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
Click image below
Put that in your browser, on your
computer or cellphone..............
it looks like
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
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
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
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
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
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.
gauge (stage/height) is a key
"control" or determinant of what the
Corp of engineers can do relative to
"non-power" releases from Bull
following (in italics) is from the
Corp of Engineer FAQ page.
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
• 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
• 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
River FAQ from Corp of
current lake water levels are
Releases from Bull Shoals Lake into
the White River is available at:
can also call 870-431-5311 for recorded
message about current generation.
of the White River is available at: White
six gauges on the Buffalo River to
check water levels:Boxley,
Joe and Harriett.
of the Buffalo River is available at: Buffalo
Ron and Debbie Gamble
P.O. Box 96
Cotter, Arkansas 72626