Workshop on Stream Gaging in the Flathead Basin

January 31 – February 1, 2018

In early 2018, the Flathead River Commission and SWCDM hosted a two-day workshop in Kalispell on stream gaging in the Flathead River Basin. The event was attended by 32 participants representing 18 different agencies and organizations. The workshop was moderated by Samantha Tappenbeck, resource specialist with SWCDM working in northwest Montana. Day one included presentations by the USGS and DNRC on the federal and state gaging programs, and by local agencies and organizations about stream gages they operate in the basin. Participants developed a better understanding how stream gages work and are funded, operated, and maintained. Participants also learned about resources that are available for accessing data generated by stream gages, and were guided through tours of the Surface Water Assessment and Monitoring Program (SWAMP) and the National Water Information System (NWIS) websites.

Day two of the workshop included presentations that highlighted specific applications of stream gage data to programs such as the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service by the National Weather Service and the Flathead Flood Inundation Mapping Project by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Participants then took part in a roundtable discussion about how each use and apply stream gage data in their own work. The group used a ranking exercise to discuss and identify the relative importance of the following categories of stream gage data records:

  • Longevity: having a data record that spans a great length of time
  • Continuity: having an unbroken data record
  • Spatial extent: having a wide geographic distribution of gages

Overall, the group ranked data longevity as most important, continuity as somewhat important, and spatial extent as least important, although ranking by importance was a difficult task for many participants. The exercise demonstrated how critical each of these components is to success of the diverse programs and projects managed by professionals in attendance at the workshop.

The workshop was a great opportunity to learn from each other and identify priorities and opportunities for collaboration. The discussion seemed timely and particularly relevant given the uncertainty of funding for stream gages in the future. Check out the map that identifies the locations of all of the stream gages in the Flathead River Basin, and keep scrolling for more resources that came out of the workshop, including an audio recording of the event, presentations, and informational handouts.


Workshop presentations:

DNRC – state gaging program

FWP – Ashley Lake gage


NWS – river and water supply forecasting

USACE – Flathead FIM

USGS – federal gaging program




DNRC – gage program flyer

DNRC – East Flathead Valley Study Fact Sheet