Abstract

The low-flow channel morphology of Boulder Creek is characterized by a well-developed pool-and-riffle pattern. The riffles consist of accumulations of basaltic boulders deposited from upstream source areas during extremely large flows. Paleoflood water-surface profiles defined by high-water indicators such as slack-water sediments and silt lines indicate that discharges of up to 400±50 m3/s have affected the lower reaches of this bedrock stream system. Stratigraphic relationships and archaeologic and radiometric age constraints indicate that at least four large-magnitude, low-frequency flow events have occurred within the past 500 to 1,000 radiocarbon years B.P.

Step-backwater hydraulic reconstructions of these large flows suggest that the positions of the boulder-comprised riffles are controlled by spatial variations in large-flow stream power. Boulder deposition occurs where channel stream power drops below critical-power thresholds necessary for boulder transport. High-discharge stream-power minima occur in reaches immediately upstream of canyon bends and constrictions and downstream of canyon expansions. The low-flow riffles occur at these sites. Comparison of calculated stream-power values and measured boulder sizes with established coarse-particle transport relationships indicates that a 400-m3/s flow is approximately the minimum discharge competent to affect this pool-and-riffle pattern.

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