We revisited three traditional methods and proposed a slope-based method, which all require only mean daily flow (MDF) records as inputs, to estimate instantaneous peak flows (IPFs). We applied these methods to 144 basins in Iowa, USA, with drainage areas in the range 7–220,000 km2. This application involves ∼3,800 peak flow events triggered by snow-melting and rainfall over the period from 1997 to 2014. The results show that: using a sequence of MDF rather than just the maximum MDF improves the accuracy of estimating IPFs from MDFs; Sangal's method tends to overestimate, Fill and Steiner's method works reasonably well and is marginally outperformed by the slope-based method. For the slope-based method, about 75% of the basins have prediction error of IPFs within ±10% and about 85% of the basins within ±20%; performances of the four methods degrade as the basin size decreases. Fill and Steiner's and the slope-based methods work well for basins larger than 500 km2, poorly for basins smaller than 100 km2, and fairly well for basins with sizes in between. Our proposed method is a simple and promising tool to estimate IPFs from MDFs for areas where IPF records are unavailable or are insufficient.

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