A gauge is painted on the Southeast corner of the bridge piling of the Hwy 35 bridge. Just upstream of Little River Falls. On the bridge gauge a reading of 0 or a few inches below zero is a low level. A reading of 1 foot is juicy. Seldom run above 1"
Thanks to Ted Hayes and John Reeves for putting up a new and more readable gauge next to the old one,this was a much needed improvement.
The USGS has an online gauge at Blue Pond at Canyon Mouth Park, the take out for the lower canyon.
AL Power Reservoir info line will also give a guage reading at the same site 800-525-3711 (1-800-Lakes-11), then 6, wait for warning message, then 2, 2.
According to local boater Bill Thornton:
"There seems to be a lot of questions about levels on LRC. Since I live 35 miles away and have been running this forever I thought I'd give my observations.
-6" to -2" Suicide is too low, most of the rapids are unrunnable, upper 2 is still pretty fair for play boating, decent splats and rock moves can be found for desperate boaters. Better call ahead for partners, crowds are sparse.
-2" to 0 " is a very doable though low level on the Suicide sec. Many rapids are harder and steeper at this level like, Are You Ready, Terminal Eddy, some are too low to run by their normal routes like, Cable Falls, Avalanche. There are a lot of under cuts in play at this level though there are no big holes and not much push, still over the years most accidents have happened in this range. Terminal Eddy is particularly dangerous at low levels. There will normally be a pretty good crowd of locals here if it is a nice day.
2" to 6" the river is filling in and the rapids open up to some degree. At the top end of this level holes are starting to get some punch. There will be a good crowd at this level, Locals, Atlanta, Chattanooga boaters crowding the river
7" to 1' Though some rapids are easier at this level, Terminal Eddy, Avalanche, most of the run is big and pushy. At the high end of this range the Suicide is quite serious with a lot of big holes and pushy water and little slack between rapids. This is the level that claimed Dale Adams at Road Block. Boaters are thinning out at the higher end of this level, people are dropping off to run creeks.
Above 1' Very serious, Large holes, lots of crazy shit running together. Hard to find anyone at the put-in, go run a creek.
Above 2' Seldom if ever run at these levels. Look for Alaska and Idaho boaters at the put-in.
2' to 5' the lower canyon
is very nice at this level mostly big class 4 except for Bottle Neck. Very pushy, Very big waves and holes in a wide riverbed at upper range of this level"
Rob Maxwell has done a great job coming up with this conversion chart
-1 = 380 to 490 cfs
0 = 520 to 578 cfs
1 = 663 to 717 cfs
2 = 758 cfs
3 = no data points
4 = 873 to 950 cfs
5 = 940 to 1140 cfs
6 = 1135 to 1265 cfs
7 = 1220 to 1265 cfs
8 = 1350 to 1595 cfs
9 = no data points
10 = 1600 cfs
11 = 1580 cfs
12 = 2100 to 2240 cfs
13 = 2960 cfs