Jun 14 2011

Did you guys catch anything? Not exactly…

That’s usually the question we get asked when out on a river performing a hydrographic survey (“hydro survey”)! “Are you guys fishing?” This is especially the case when on a smaller stream such as the Truckee River or the Colorado River near Yuma. “Hydro what?” Most folks doing hydro surveys are on the coasts, in the northwest or the northeast, on big water, and what they do normally entails using boats like this…

Big coastal water = large hydro survey ships!

If you’re not on the coasts, then this is the typical picture of “hydro survey:”

No water = wading!

But what we have specialized in and will be discussing is something a little more in-between. There are many streams that are too deep to be waded but too small for large boats. We call them “shallow western streams.” For these shallow western streams, you might need jet boats like this:

our jet boats

You also might need more zanier watercraft to get in those truly “inaccessible” areas, where sand would clog up your jet boat or where there are no boat ramps:

The zanier watercraft for those "inaccessible" areas...

In the mid ‘90s, our company was doing hydraulic modeling, bridge scour analysis, flood mapping, stream restoration, and even levee repair and habitat analysis, and we needed highly accurate bathymetry and underwater data. So what did we do? We simply developed the capability to do this in-house. In the past 15 years, our folks have been on streams as small as the Dolores River in southwestern Colorado to streams as large as the Sacramento River and from small ponds to reservoirs like Fort Peck Lake. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss some of the basics of hydro survey on shallow streams: the boats, the equipment, processing the data, the problems and pitfalls, and even tackling the inaccessible areas.


2 pings

  1. Adrian McDonald


    I noticed your survey under the dam. That might have been easy using one of these new Z-Boat survey boats. In fact, even much larger surveys and river sections may be completed using this system:



    1. Anthony Alvarado

      Wow, looks like a nice set up. What transducer does it use? Is the boat electric or does it run on fuel? What is the remote range? What kind of power does the motor have? From what I can see, I’d be a little worried about it running in any kind of current. Add in any transect line that you’re trying drive along and it probably would be very difficult or take some practice. It seems like it has a ton of potential though – ROV for shallow water applications!

      1. Adrian McDonald

        You can select the transducer that you like, for example the SonarM8 or HydroBox. We had one customer with a CV100.

        The boat is electric and we have a high speed version for river sections. It is quite nippy:


        You might be surprised but the line following is rather easy. You can use HYPACK or similar just like your “normal” jobs. You do not really watch the boat, but instead use the heading and position on the laptop to steer.

        The RC range is up to about 1km so you are not limited to the smallest scales.

  1. Hydro Survey: The Setup and Software » Hydraulically Inclined

    […] talked about jet boats and the cataraft for hydro survey. Now let’s dig into the set up and the software. Above is the typical setup with the usual […]

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    […] a previous post, I discussed the use of jet boats for hydro surveys on shallow western streams. A jet boat is fantastic in how it can get almost anywhere, even through […]

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