Mapping flowing water

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This page was created to collect ideas together for mapping flowing water, such as streams and small rivers.

The concept came about after I realised it would hypothetically be simple to use a floatable GPS to gather tracks, by turning the GPS on and dropping it in the stream/river, then collecting it downstream, complete with a track showing the path of the water.

It should be quicker than walking along the side of the water, which also may not be possible due to marshes, or the stream passing through private land

Add any ideas, criticisms, etc below.

potential problems

  • water damage
  • not being able to find the device
  • Someone stealing it
  • Getting snagged on material in the water way, logs/grass/etc
  • Lack of phone network/signal to update it's position if using phone networks for TX
  • Due to waterways being "low" it may be difficult to track using non-phone network TX methods

'Wet' GPS units

Some GPS units are waterproof and float; they do not need any preparation

'Dry' GPS units

Most GPS devices are not waterproof, hence preparatory work needs to be carried out first.

  • Flotation
    • wood
    • low-density plastic, e.g. blown polystyrene
    • gas-filled, airtight container
      • full aerosol can
    • model boat
  • Waterproofing
    • plastic bag
    • sealable box, e.g. plastic food container - ice cream, etc.


Some phone/gps combos can be programmed to send text messages, or a wifi-capable device could stream it's position to a nearby laptop/pda

Possible solutions