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The effect of terrace geology on ground-water movement and on the interaction of ground water and surface water on a mountainside near Mirror Lake, New Hampshire, USA

January 1, 2008

The west watershed of Mirror Lake in the White Mountains of New Hampshire contains several terraces that are at different altitudes and have different geologic compositions. The lowest terrace (FSE) has 5 m of sand overlying 9 m of till. The two next successively higher terraces (FS2 and FS1) consist entirely of sand and have maximum thicknesses of about 7 m. A fourth, and highest, terrace (FS3) lies in the north-west watershed directly adjacent to the west watershed. This highest terrace has 2 m of sand overlying 8 m of till. All terraces overlie fractured crystalline bedrock. Numerical models of hypothetical settings simulating ground-water flow in a mountainside indicated that the presence of a terrace can cause local ground-water flow cells to develop, and that the flow patterns differ based on the geologic composition of the terrace. For example, more ground water moves from the bedrock to the glacial deposits beneath terraces consisting completely of sand than beneath terraces that have sand underlain by till. Field data from Mirror Lake watersheds corroborate the numerical experiments. The geology of the terraces also affects how the stream draining the west watershed interacts with ground water. The stream turns part way down the mountainside and passes between the two sand terraces, essentially transecting the movement of ground water down the valley side. Transects of water-table wells were installed across the stream's riparian zone above, between, and below the sand terraces. Head data from these wells indicated that the stream gains ground water on both sides above and below the sand terraces. However, where it flows between the sand terraces the stream gains ground water on its uphill side and loses water on its downhill side. Biogeochemical processes in the riparian zone of the flow-through reach have resulted in anoxic ground water beneath the lower sand terrace. Results of this study indicate that it is useful to understand patterns of ground-water flow in order to fully understand the flow and chemical characteristics of both ground water and surface water in mountainous terrain. 

Citation Information

Publication Year 2008
Title The effect of terrace geology on ground-water movement and on the interaction of ground water and surface water on a mountainside near Mirror Lake, New Hampshire, USA
DOI 10.1002/hyp.6593
Authors T. C. Winter, D.C. Buso, P.C. Shattuck, P. T. Harte, D.A. Vroblesky, D.J. Goode
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Hydrological Processes
Index ID 70033757
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program