Water Level

Streamflow on the Roanoke River and tributaries varies considerably based on season and meteorological events but generally ranges from flatwater to Class II rapids. During low water levels sections of the river may not be floatable without exiting the boat or scrapping the river bottom (see minimum recommended streamflow levels on the Blueway Access page). Minimum recommended streamflows are provided as general guidance and are considered the base streamflow needed to support most Blueway uses. As floatability varies considerably based on a range of factors (canoe vs. kayak, solo vs. tandem, durability of boat, paddler preferences and skills, etc.) streamflows less than the recommended minimums may be sufficient to support passage. High water levels can also present potential river hazards and greatly impact boater safety (see River Hazards/Portages below). Blueway users should check river conditions, streamflow, and weather conditions as a best practice in planning any Blueway outing.


Real-Time and Forecast Streamflow
The NOAA/USGS graph provides real-time (updated every 15 minutes) and forecast (next 5 days) streamflow data at the USGS gage (2055000 Roanoke) at Walnut Avenue to assist in planning a safe and enjoyable outing on the Roanoke River Blueway by cross referencing the recommended minimum and maximum streamflow levels cited in the Portage and Hazards and the Roanoke River Blueway Access Information sections. See the NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service for additional site information.

Note: The NOAA forecast graph provides real-time and forecast streamflow in kilo cubic feet per second (kcfs) and should be converted to cubic feet per second (cfs) which is the measure used when referencing recommended minimum and maximum streamflows on the Roanoke River Blueway. Conversion: kcfs x 1,000 = cfs. Example: 0.2 kcfs x 1,000 = 200 cfs.


United States Geological Survey (USGS) – Virginia Streamflow Information
The following USGS stream gages are located on the Roanoke River Blueway. Click on gage number for detailed real-time streamflow information. See the Roanoke River Blueway Interactive map for stream gage locations.

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2053800  Shawsville
2054500  Lafayette
2054530  Glenvar
2055000  Roanoke
2056000  Niagara
2056650  Back Creek

Sign Up for USGS WaterAlert Service
Sign up the the U.S. Geological Survey WaterAlert Service to receive e-mail or text (SMS) messages when certain parameters, as measured by a USGS real-time data-collection station, exceed user-definable thresholds. Click on the desired USGS streamflow gage link above, click on the Subscribe to WaterAlert link, and set streamflow parameters (i.e., 120 cfs at 2055000  Roanoke is the minimum recommended streamflow for much of the Roanoke River Blueway). Note: Be sure to select the WaterAlert link below the Discharge/cubic feet per second (cfs) graph.


Portages and Hazards
There are two required portages and three additional portages, depending on water (high) level and paddling skills.  Other hazards or impediments may also be present at various low and high water levels including rapids (class I and II) , strainers, sweepers, rock gardens, hydraulics, low head dams, and small ledges. Streamflow levels cited for river hazards/portages are approximate values and are provided as general guidance. See the Roanoke Blueway Interactive Maps for portage and hazard locations (click on the map icon for a pop-up menu of information).

Note: The following information is provided as general guidance and is assumed to be accurate based on the best available stakeholder guidance and input. Any recommended minimum or maximum streamflow/water levels, rapid classifications, portage difficulty, and potential hazards are based on average conditions and can vary greatly based on a range of factors. Blueway users should be alert at all time for potential river hazards and portage or otherwise negotiate hazards based on river conditions, paddling proficiency, and other safety considerations. Blueway users should check streamflow before a planned outing and generally avoid using the Blueway during periods of high water.


Bohon Hollow Road (734)

  • Potential Hazard
  • Latitude 37.249669, Longitude -80.142014 (Roanoke County)
  • Passable at normal water levels. Portage required at high water levels (Glenvar 205430). Portage distance 75 ft. Moderate. Exit river right upstream of Bohon Hollow Road (734). Cross Bohon Hollow Road to access river downstream of bridge.

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Mill Lane Bridge

  • Potential Hazard
  • Latitude 37.285353, Longitude -80.082084 (City of Salem)
  • Passable at normal water levels. Portage required at approximately 600 cfs or higher (Glenvar 205430). Portage distance 75 ft. Moderate. Exit river right upstream at Greenway parking area. Cross Mill Lane to access river downstream of bridge.

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Wasena Park Low Water Bridge

  • Potential Hazard
  • Latitude 37.263736, Longitude -79.956463 (City of Roanoke)
  • Passable at normal water levels. Portage required at approximately 1000 cfs or higher (Roanoke 2055000). Portage distance 75 ft. Moderate. Exit river left at bridge. Cross Greenway to access river downstream of bridge. Watch for Greenway trail users.

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Smith Park Low Water Bridge

  • Required Portage
  • Latitude 37.257166, Longitude -79.953419 (City of Roanoke)
  • Portage distance 75 ft. Easy. Exit river right at low water bridge. Cross Roanoke River Greenway to access river downstream of low water bridge. Watch for Greenway trail users

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Franklin Road Low Water Dam

  • Potential Hazard
  • Latitude 37.25526, Longitude -79.949516 (City of Roanoke)
  • Passable at gap in low water dam on river right (portage as necessary). Portage distance 50 ft. Moderate. Exit river right. use Roanoke River Greenway to access river downstream of low water dam. Watch for Greenway trail users.

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Niagara Dam

  • Required Portage
  • Latitude 37.254665, Longitude -79.875455 (Roanoke County)
  • Portage distance 0.3 miles. Difficult. Exit river left at steps upstream of marker buoys. Follow AEP access road to access river downstream of dam. A canoe/kayak cart is available to assist Blueway users in portaging Niagara Dam. Please return cart to upstream portage after completing portage. See sign for cart use instructions. 13th/Bennington  Access or Tinker Creek 3rd Street Access are recommended put in/take out points to avoid Niagara Dam portage.

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