Missouri River Stream Flow-Gaging Station

Science Center Objects

The Missouri River streamflow-gaging station at Bismarck was established in 1927 and is one of more than 100 gaging stations in North Dakota. 

Missouri River Streamflow-Gaging Station
The light-colored brick around the gaging station signifies the water-surface elevation of the flood of April 6, 1952. The elevation on that date was 1,646.18 feet above sea level, which is equivalent to a river stage of 27.90 feet. This is the highest stage ever recorded on the Missouri River at Bismarck. However a maximum river stage of 31.60 feet occurred on March 31, 1881 before official record keeping began at this site.

About the Gaging Station

The U.S. Geological Survey was created by an act of Congress in 1879 and has become the principal Federal agency providing water information needed to manage the Nation's water resources.  In 1889, the U.S. Geological Survey established the first streamflow-gaging station on the Rio Grande River in New Mexico.  The U.S. Geological Survey now operates and maintains a network of about 7,000 streamflow-gaging stations nationwide.

The Missouri River is the largest river in North Dakota and accounts for 80 percent of the total mean streamflow in the State. The Missouri River Basin is comprised of seven major subbasins and drains about 34,000 square miles or about 48 percent of the State's total area.

Of the original 390 Missouri River miles in North Dakota, about 80 miles remain free-flowing. These free-flowing river miles are located in the reach just below Garrison Dam and upstream from Lake Oahe (formed by a Oahe Dam located in South Dakota). Garrison Dam, about 70 miles north of Bismarck, was built in 1953 as part of a system of dams and reservoirs located on the Missouri River in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the dams, in part, to control flooding on the Missouri River. Before the construction of Garrison Dam, the maximum peak streamflow measured at Bismarck was 500,000 cubic feet per second on April 6, 1952. For 1954-2000, the annual mean flow at Bismarck was 23,170 cubic feet per second.

The Missouri River streamflow-gaging station at Bismarck was established in 1927 and is one of more than 100 gaging stations in North Dakota.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Geological Survey provide the funds needed to operate the gaging station and the North Dakota State Water Commission and the U.S. Geological Survey provide the funds needed for semiannual water-quality analyses at the gaging station.  

The primary purpose of the gaging station is to provide data for regulation of the Missouri River and for flood forecasting.

 

Directions to the Gage House

The Missouri River streamflow-gaging station at Bismarck is located on the east side of the Missouri River across the street from the Bismarck water-treatment plant about 0.5 mile from the Memorial Bridge.

To Visit the Gaging Station by Foot or Bicycle:

  • From the North End of Pioneer Park:
    • Proceed south approximately 1.4 miles on the Bismarck Parks and Recreational Multi-Use Trail.  The gage house is located on the right side of the trail across the street from the Bismarck water-treatment plant.
  • From the North End of Sertoma Park:
    • Proceed north approximately 0.6 mile on the Bismarck Parks and Recreational Multi-Use Trail.  The gage house is located on the left side of the trail across the street from the Bismarck water-treatment plant.

To Visit the Gaging Station by Car:

  • From Main Avenue in Bismarck:
    • Proceed west on Main Avenue.  Just before the Memorial Bridge, turn right at the stoplight onto Fraine Barracks Road.  Fraine Barracks Road merges into River Road.  Continue north on River Road for a total distance from Main Avenue of approximately 0.4 mile.  Parking is available just north of the gage house in front of the state historic marker titled North Dakota History Bismarck River Warehouse.
  • From North Bismarck:
    • Proceed west on Century Avenue or Divide Avenue.
    • From Century Avenue, turn left (south) onto Tyler Parkway and then, turn right onto Burnt Boat Drive at the Bismarck/Mandan Visitors' Center.
    • From Divide Avenue, continue to follow Divide Avenue north across Interstate 94.  After crossing the Interstate, turn left onto Burnt Boat Drive at the Bismarck/Mandan Visitors' Center.
    • Proceed west on Burnt Boat Drive for approximately 0.7 mile.  Turn left (south) onto River Road and proceed south approximately 1.3 miles.  Parking is available just north of the gage house in front of the state historic marker titled North Dakota History Bismarck River Warehouse.