Differences in the simulation of hydrologic processes by watershed models directly affect the accuracy of results. Surface runoff generation can be simulated as either: (1) infiltration-excess (or Hortonian) overland flow, or (2) saturation-excess overland flow. This study compared the Hydrological Simulation Program - FORTRAN (HSPF) and the Soil Moisture Routing (SMR) models, each representing one of these mechanisms. These two models were applied to a 102 km2 watershed in the upper part of the Irondequoit Creek basin in central New York State over a seven-year simulation period. The models differed in both the complexity of simulating snowmelt and baseflow processes as well as the detail in which the geographic information was preserved by each model. Despite their differences in structure and representation of hydrologic processes, the two models simulated streamflow with almost equal accuracy. Since streamflow is an integral response and depends mainly on the watershed water balance, this was not unexpected. Model efficiency values for the seven-year simulation period were 0.67 and 0.65 for SMR and HSPF, respectively. HSPF simulated winter streamflow slightly better than SMR as a result of its complex snowmelt routine, whereas SMR simulated summer flows better than HSPF as a result of its runoff and baseflow processes. An important difference between model results was the ability to predict the spatial distribution of soil moisture content. HSPF aggregates soil moisture content, which is generally related to a specific pervious land unit across the entire watershed, whereas SMR predictions of moisture content distribution are geographically specific and matched field observations reasonably well. Important is that the saturated area was predicted well by SMR and confirmed the validity of using saturation-excess mechanisms for this hillslope dominated watershed. ?? 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.