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Geomorphic changes resulting from floods in reconfigured gravel-bed river channels in Colorado, USA

By
John G Elliott
John G Elliott
U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046, MS 415, Denver Federal Center, Lakewood, Colorado 80225, USA
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Joseph P Capesius
Joseph P Capesius
U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046, MS 415, Denver Federal Center, Lakewood, Colorado 80225, USA
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Published:
May 01, 2009

Geomorphic changes in reconfigured reaches of three Colorado rivers in response to floods in 2005 provide a benchmark for “restoration” assessment. Sediment-entrainment potential is expressed as the ratio of the shear stress from the 2 yr, 5 yr, 10 yr, and 2005 floods to the critical shear stress for sediment. Some observed response was explained by the excess of flood shear stress relative to the resisting force of the sediment. Bed-load entrainment in the Uncompahgre River and the North Fork Gunnison River, during 4 and 6 yr floods respectively, resulted in streambed scour, streambed deposition, lateral-bar accretion, and channel migration at various locations. Some constructed boulder and log structures failed because of high rates of bank erosion or bed-material deposition. The Lake Fork showed little or no net change after the 2005 flood; however, this channel had not conveyed floods greater than the 2.5 yr flood since reconfiguration.

Channel slope and the 2 yr flood, a surrogate for bankfull discharge, from all three reconfigured reaches plotted above the Leopold and Wolman channel-pattern threshold in the “braided channel” region, indicating that braiding, rather than a single-thread meandering channel, and midchannel bar formation may be the natural tendency of these gravel-bed reaches. When plotted against a total stream-power and median-sediment-size threshold for the 2 yr flood, however, the Lake Fork plotted in the “single-thread channel” region, the North Fork Gunnison plotted in the “multiple-thread” region, and the Uncompahgre River plotted on the threshold. All three rivers plotted in the multiple-thread region for floods of 5 yr recurrence or greater.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Management and Restoration of Fluvial Systems with Broad Historical Changes and Human Impacts

L. Allan James
L. Allan James
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Sara L. Rathburn
Sara L. Rathburn
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G. Richard Whittecar
G. Richard Whittecar
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Geological Society of America
Volume
451
ISBN print:
9780813724515
Publication date:
May 01, 2009

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