Field manual for identifying and preserving high-water mark data

Open-File Report 2017-1105
Prepared in cooperation with the South Carolina Department of Transportation
By:  and 



This field manual provides general guidance for identifying and collecting high-water marks and is meant to be used by field personnel as a quick reference. The field manual describes purposes for collecting and documenting high-water marks along with the most common types of high-water marks. The manual provides a list of suggested field equipment, describes rules of thumb and best practices for finding high-water marks, and describes the importance of evaluating each high-water mark and assigning a numeric uncertainty value as part of the flagging process. The manual also includes an appendix of photographs of a variety of high-water marks obtained from various U.S. Geological Survey field investigations along with general comments about the logic for the assigned uncertainty values.

Suggested Citation

Feaster, T.D., and Koenig, T.A, 2017, Field manual for identifying and preserving high-water mark data: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2017–1105, 67 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

ISSN: 0196-1497 (print)

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Purpose of High-Water Marks
  • Suggested Field Equipment for High-Water Mark Data Collection
  • Types of High-Water Marks
  • Rules of Thumb for Finding High-Water Marks
  • Location of High-Water Marks
  • Flagging and Documenting High-Water Marks
  • Evaluating High-Water Marks
  • Best Practices—Developing an Eye for Finding High-Water Marks and Avoiding Pitfalls
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. High-Water Mark Examples
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Field manual for identifying and preserving high-water mark data
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2017-1105
DOI 10.3133/ofr20171105
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) South Atlantic Water Science Center
Description x, 67 p.
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details