Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Awesome iPhone Application : RiverGuide

Where rivers and phones meet.

Most people don't associate river trips with cell phones, but that may soon change. Don't worry though, you won't find us chatting up a storm around a campfire on the Middle Fork. Instead, your phone can be used as a tool to help find the rivers or creeks with the right flows in your area. No more guessing on the drive in, no more poring over topomaps, and no more pulling into a Best Western parking lot with your laptop hoping to pick up a few lines of wireless. With RiverGuides, all you need is your iPhone and cell service.

To demonstrate the convenience and importance of an application like RiverGuide, all
ow me to take you to November of 2007; Selma, Oregon.

A group of Idaho and Oregon River Journeys guides were preparing for a 3-day Illinois
river trip at the Rogue River Journeys guide house. It was a Thursday night and flows looked low (740 CFS). The trouble, however, was that the rain drops were starting to fall and, having no laptop or internet connection, we were on our own to guess at the flow. The Illinois is notorious for flash flooding, so we were right to be concerned.

Nevertheless, we didn't want to pull the plug on the trip until we were certain of the flow. At 2:00 AM, Chip Carroll and Ursula Melvin, both long-time IORJ and Kern River Outfitters guides, arrived from Portland, OR. Chip brought in his newly purchased iPhone and the rest of us stood around him like he was a campfire, gawking and pointing as he used the iPhone to download the Illinois river gauge and project the additional cubic-feet-per-second (CFS) per hour. Only 1400 CFS and rising slightly reported the iPhone. We relaxed and went to sleep, thinking we were good to go.

We awoke three hours later to a huge downpour. Checking the iPhone (we were getting good at this by now!), we found that the river was now at 2800 and rising fast, between 400 and 600 CFS every hour. If we were going to see the Illinois we would have to leave immediately and get downstream of the dreaded Green Wall rapid (mile 18) before the flows increased further. So much for a 3-day trip, this was going to have to be a fast one. We loaded up, drove to the put-in and got on the water.

By the time we got on the river, flows were between 3500 and 4000 CFS at the gauge (Kerby, OR). We pushed on downstream and experienced an amazing river and canyon full of water, big rapids, and jaw-dropping scenery. Relaxing around camp next to a fire, we realized what an important tool Chip's phone had been for us. Without it, we may have canceled or, worse, the flows could have been increasing more than we expected and we may have put on anyway, not realizing the danger.

Scouting Green Wall, Illinois River. November 17, 2007:

At the time of this trip, the application RiverGuide had yet to be developed. From this experience, however, one can see the importance of such a tool. We were able to use the iPhone's web-browsing capabilities but it would have been more convenient to have had a tool like RiverGuide.

The trip went well. There was big water but we weren't over our heads. And, heck, it beat the hell out of staying home for the weekend. So, the next time you go boating you can leave most things at home... but don't forget your iPhone with the RiverGuide application.

For photos and video from this epic trip, you can view the trip report:
Oregon Rafting : The Illinois River, November 17-18, 2008

For more information about this iPhone Application:

Written by Will Volpert

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