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Channel-changing processes on the Santa Cruz River, Pima County, Arizona, 1936-86

January 1, 1990

Lateral channel change on the mainly ephemeral Santa Cruz River, Pima County, Arizona, causes damage and has spawned costly efforts to control bank erosion. Aerial photographs, historical data, and field observations are used to document the history of channel change since 1936. Variability in the nature and degree of channel change over time and space is shown. Three major channel change processes are: (1) migration by bank erosion during meander migration or initiation; (2) avulsion by overbank flooding and flood plain incision; (3) widening by erosion of low, cohesionless banks during floods and arroyo widening by undercutting and mass wasting of deeply incised vertical walls. The first process generally is a product of low to moderate flows or waning high flows; the others result mainly from higher flows, though sensitive arroyo walls may erode during relatively low flows. Channel morphology, bank resistance, and hydrology are factors determining the dominant channel-changing process on a particular reach of the river. Present river morphology reflects high flows since the 1960's.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1990
Title Channel-changing processes on the Santa Cruz River, Pima County, Arizona, 1936-86
DOI
Authors John T.C. Parker
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Series Title
Series Number
Index ID 70016441
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization