Yo Buzzards... I'll start with the answers.
Use Robideau creek guage as a barometer for escalante. Detail Graph
General flows for the data I looked at
Escalante Level: Corresponding Robideau Gauge reading
Minimum: 150 cfs
Low: 150- 300 cfs
Medium: 300 - 500 cfs
High: 500+ cfs
Looking at topos and gauges, I noticed that robideau creek is the next drainage to the south of escalante with similar drainage, elevation, and aspect, and it has a gauge. I downloaded robideau gauge data for 2005 (high water) and 2007 (low water) and compared daily robideau creek cfs readings to historical escalante visual updates from a buzz search. The data correlates fairly well. I read through the escalante visuals and assigned 1= min flow, 2 = low, 3 = medium, 4 = medium/high, and 5 = high. This was very subjective as many visuals are noted as painfully low, juicy, roostertail kickin over the fin etc. I did the best I could with the varying information. Here is a chart that shows robideau flows vs. the escalante visuals using the number system. Note that the min levels are clustered around the same flows. The medium and medium highs are clustered around the same flow levels, and the highe are around the same flow levels. Pretty good correlation over two different years of data sets from min flow to high flow.
Of course this won't replace a bonafide visual, but it can help fill in the gaps between visual reports. If you get a bare minimum visual two days before you are thinking of going, and the robideau is rising the next couple of days, you can expect escalante to be responding the same. We all look at the weather, but its hard to judge if snow is hitting the plateau vs. rain, and if it freezes how much impact will it have etc. I think that the similar location of the robideau will allow for seeing how a barometer gauge is reacting to changing weather and help inform boaters coming from far away about potential levels. Its also very easy for the creek to get shut down, so this could help prevent getting skunked.
My two cents... If escalante hasn't been running, and the robideau gets over 150 cfs, I'd go check it out expecting min to low flows. If the robideau is in the 300-500 cfs levels, I'd expect nice medium flows. If the robideau is raging at 800 cfs, I'm bringing the video camera for to get the carnage on tape safe on the shore.
Of course there is scatter in the data, and its not perfect, but the R-squared is 85% meaning its a fairly tight correlation.
A final thought is that if we get lots of detailed visuals this year, I can update and improve the correlation with new data. The more data I get, the better the correlation will be.
If you want to help me with this, post your visuals and include the date, what the level felt like (min, low, med, med/high, high), and post what the fin looked like. Two problems that I encounter is that a high level may be perfect on the upper, but scary on the lower gorge. I'd say rating flow on the upper section would give the best consistency. Also be as descriptive of the fin as you can. The more visuals I get the better I can make the correlation.
A final comment is that I got this idea from what Rob Maxwell does in the southeast. He has years of correlations for rainfed drainages in the southeast and set up some really cool correlations to help boaters figure out what is running.