What are CFS?
CFS. It stands for many different things. For doctors and those it affects it’s a debilitating illness known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. To musicians in Florida it’s the Central Florida Symphony. To whitewater enthusiasts like us CFS stands for Cubic Feet per Second. While the Central Florida Symphony may sound more interesting than a measurement like CFS you’ve got to trust us when we say that it isn’t. The reason that we are so interested in CFS is because they determine how much high water rafting, how many big waves and ultimately how much fun we are going to have on the river. But before we can explain why CFS matter so much, let’s take a deeper dive into what CFS really are and why CFS flows can change so much.
A cubic foot (the C and the F) is a measurement of volume. One cubic foot is around 7.5 gallons and one cubic foot of water weighs about 62 pounds. That is the weight of one eight-year-old boy, 1,400 forks or one-seventy-fifth of an adult rhinoceros.
CFS on The Kennebec
The minimum level that we can run the Kennebec River at is 4,850 CFS. In other words, at any given point on the river, on a low day, there are 4,850 eight-year-old boys, seven million forks or 65 rhinos flowing past you every second. These forks and rhinos are what create the rapids we know and love. A CFS flow less than this would expose the rocks on the riverbed leaving only obstacles in the way.
If we had it our way the river would be flowing at least 4,850 CFS all-day. Unfortunately, it’s the dam people at Harris Station Dam that control the water flows and all we get from them in return is endless, renewable energy to power our homes, offices and lives.
The Gift of an 8,000 Release
We like to joke about the people at the dam but we really shouldn’t. Four times a year the folks up there give us a gift. That gift is called a turbine check. During a turbine check, Harris Station Dam releases its maximum flow of at least 8,000 CFS. That’s 8,000 cubic feet per second of glorious whitewater and that means high water rafting. Just like how a flow of 4,850 CFS turns some obstacles into waves, 8,000 CFS wipes out nearly all obstacles and replaces them with massive waves and some serious fun.
Here at Three Rivers we live for high water rafting and these 8,000 CFS releases. It’s not the big numbers, the fancy terminology, or the thought of 112 rhinos flowing underneath the raft that get us excited, it’s the whitewater. During a turbine check our guides and our guests get to experience something new, something that only a handful of people get to experience every year. Holes like “Maytag” that are dangerous to run at low flows become massive waves to enjoy. Waves, like the aptly named “House Wave”, grow to the size of houses. We can continue to describe a high water release here, but it really is something that needs to be experienced.