Investigating the routing of streamflow through a large drainage basin requires the determination of discharge at numerous locations in the channel network. Establishing a dense network of stream gages using conventional methods is both cost-prohibitive and functionally impractical for many research projects. We employ herein a previously tested, fluid-mechanically based model for generating rating curves to establish a stream gaging network in the Whitewater River basin in south-central Kansas. The model was developed for the type of channels typically found in this watershed, meaning that it is designed to handle deep, narrow geomorphically stable channels with irregular planforms, and can model overbank flow over a vegetated floodplain. We applied the model to ten previously ungaged stream reaches in the basin, ranging from third- to sixth-order channels. At each site, detailed field measurements of the channel and floodplain morphology, bed and bank roughness, and vegetation characteristics were used to quantify the roughness for a range of flow stages, from low flow to overbank flooding. Rating curves that relate stage to discharge were developed for all ten sites. Both fieldwork and modeling were completed in less than 2 years during an anomalously dry period in the region, which underscores an advantage of using theoretically based (as opposed to empirically based) discharge estimation techniques. ?? 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.