The three-dimensional subsurface alluvial architecture of a large (approximately 3 km long, 1 km wide, 12 m high), mid-channel sand braid bar in the Jamuna River, Bangladesh is described. Evolution of the bar and its depositional characteristics are assessed from a unique combination of ground-penetrating radar surveys, vibracoring, and trenching that are allied to a series of bathymetric surveys taken during growth of the bar over a 29-month period. This methodology permits identification of the formative processes of different packages of braid-bar sedimentation and provides a facies model for deposition within the entire bar.
Mid-channel bar growth occurred in a region of flow expansion and was probably initiated by the stalling and amalgamation of large dunes. These dunes created a bar-core that grew by (i) propagation of a downstream-accreting slipface, (ii) vertical accretion through stacking of dunes on both bar stoss and top, and (iii) lateral accretion on the bar margins during recession of the flood hydrograph. Braid-bar sedimentation is dominated by four radar facies: (1) large-scale, predominantly planar, dipping reflections interpreted as cross-stratification, up to 8 m in height and greater than 100 m in width, that is produced by the cross-channel migration of bar margins, (2) medium-scale, trough-shaped and planar discontinuous reflections interpreted as cross-stratification up to 4 m in height and 300 m wide, that is deposited from large, sinuous-crested sand dunes, (3) discontinuous reflections, up to 2 m high and 30 m wide, interpreted as small-scale trough cross-stratification, that is the product of smaller sinuous-crested dunes, and (4) high-amplitude, undulating reflections interpreted as mud drapes, deposited in regions of slow flow, often in the bar-tail region at low stage. Dune size decreases vertically within the bar, in response to the progressively shallower flows on the emerging bar top. Later evolution of the bar, as one anabranch channel became dominant, created a 1.5 km extension to the bar tail with an 8 m high, angle-of-repose, bar-margin slipface, formed by flow transverse to the long axis of the bar. Seven styles of deposition can be defined that constitute the alluvial architecture: bar-margin slipface, vertical accretion in channel, bar-top vertical accretion, upstream accretion, lateral accretion, downstream accretion, and low-stage mud drapes.
A model of braid-bar sedimentation is presented that shares many similarities with previous studies of smaller sand-bed braid bars with the dominance of dune-scale cross-stratification, the presence of large-scale, bar-margin cross-stratification, and the occurrence of lateral, vertical, upstream, and downstream accretion. However, the contribution of the bar-margin facies to the preserved stratigraphy highlighted herein may have been underestimated in previous models of braided rivers in which the braid bars were migrating slowly. This study suggests a scale invariance in several aspects of mid-channel bar sedimentation in sand-bed rivers and proposes a model of braid-bar sedimentation that may be applied widely within studies of braided alluvial architecture.