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Entrainment of riparian gravel and cobbles in an alluvial reach of a regulated canyon river

January 1, 2000

Many canyon rivers have channels and riparian zones composed of alluvial materials and these reaches, dominated by fluvial processes, are sensitive to alterations in streamflow regime. Prior to reservoir construction in the mid-1960s, banks and bars in alluvial reaches of the Gunnison River in the Black Canyon National Monument, Colorado, USA, periodically were reworked and cleared of riparian vegetation by mainstem floods. Recent interest in maintaining near-natural conditions in the Black Canyon using reservoir releases has created a need to estimate sediment-entraining discharges for a variety of geomorphic surfaces composed of sediment ranging in size from gravel to small boulders.

Sediment entrainment potential was studied at eight cross-sections in an alluvial reach of the Gunnison River in the Black Canyon in 1994 and 1995. A one-dimensional water-surface profile model was used to estimate water-surface elevations, flow depths, and hydraulic conditions on selected alluvial surfaces for discharges ranging from 57 to 570 m3/s. Onsite observations before and after a flood of 270 m3/s confirmed sediment entrainment on several surfaces inundated by the flood. Selective entrainment of all but the largest particle sizes on the surface occurred at some locations. Physical evidence of sediment entrainment, or absence of sediment entrainment, on inundated surfaces generally was consistent with critical shear stresses estimated with a dimensionless critical shear stress of 0.030. Sediment-entrainment potential over a range of discharges was summarized by the ratio of the local boundary shear stress to the critical shear stress for d50, given hydraulic geometry and sediment-size characteristics. Differing entrainment potential for similar geomorphic surfaces indicates that estimation of minimum streamflow requirements based on sediment mobility is site-specific and that there is no unique streamflow that will initiate movement of d50 at every geomorphically similar location in the Black Canyon. 

Publication Year 2000
Title Entrainment of riparian gravel and cobbles in an alluvial reach of a regulated canyon river
DOI 10.1002/(SICI)1099-1646(200001/02)16:1<37::AID-RRR564>3.0.CO;2-V
Authors John G. Elliott, Lauren A. Hammack
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Regulated Rivers: Research & Management
Index ID 70022305
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse