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Application of GPS and GIS to map channel features in Walnut Creek, Iowa

January 1, 2000

A 12-km reach of Walnut Creek was mapped at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Jasper County, Iowa to identify and prioritize areas of the stream channel in need of further investigation or restoration. Channel features, including streambank conditions, bottom sediment materials and thickness, channel cross-sections, debris dams, tile lines, tributary creeks, and cattle access points, were located to one-meter accuracy with global positioning system (GPS) equipment and described while traversing the stream. The GPS data were exported into a Geographic Information System (GIS) format, and field descriptions were added to create a series of coverages. Channel features were coupled with existing land cover data for analysis. Left and right streambank erosion rates varied from slight in many areas to severe at outside meander bends, debris dams or cattle access points. Erosion estimates from this study suggest that stream banks contribute about 50 percent of the annual suspended sediment load in the channel. Substrate materials varied from bare or thinly mantled pre-Illinoian till to thick silty muck (> 0.3 m) behind some debris dams and cattle access points. Occurrences of sand and gravel areas were generally restricted to cattle access areas and bridge crossings. A total of 81 debris dams were identified in the stream channel, ranging from fallen trees and beaver dams to several large debris dams. Numerous tile lines (52 total) and tributary creeks (45 total) were mapped as contributing flow to the main channel. Cross-sections measured at 34 locations indicated Walnut Creek averages 10.64 m wide and 2.77 m deep, with the width and depth increasing downstream. Channelization and tile discharge in row crop land use areas have contributed to increased bed degradation and channel widening throughout the watershed. The results of this study indicate the effectiveness of a one-time detailed mapping program to characterize stream system variability and identify spatial relationships among many stream characteristics. Stream survey data are being used to model watershed conditions, identify water sampling points and evaluate and select appropriate channel rehabilitation measures.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2000
Title Application of GPS and GIS to map channel features in Walnut Creek, Iowa
DOI 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2000.tb05737.x
Authors K. E. Schilling, C.F. Wolter
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of the American Water Resources Association
Index ID 70022084
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse