Airspace on the Buffalo River

By Robert J. Korpella

First posted on 03-18-2011

The Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca measured the Buffalo River at 23 inches of airspace this morning, meaning the water is a little low but still floatable for the weekend.

Airspace is defined as the distance between the underside of the low water bridge at Ponca and the water’s surface. A small airspace measurement means the water level is high while larger measurements indicate low water levels. Airspace can also be equated to the paddling skills needed to float the river at various times:

Zero to 6 inches of airspace: high water, only experienced whitewater paddlers should attempt to navigate the river

7 to 10 inches: floating is good with intermediate paddling skills helpful

11 to 18 inches: very good floating with some paddling skills helpful

19 to 25 inches: water is considered moderate and is ideal for novice paddlers

26 to 29 inches: low water, but still a nice float

30+ inches: too low to float from either Ponca or Steel Creek

These guidelines are provided as general references only and the Buffalo Outdoor Center cautions that they should not be viewed as specific advice.

To check out a video of how the center measures airspace, click on this link

The first photo below shows the Buffalo River with zero airspace at the Ponca low water bridge. By contrast, the second photo shows 18 inches of airspace. Photos courtesy of the Buffalo Outdoor Center.