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Geomorphic survey of North Fork Eagle Creek, New Mexico, 2019

July 8, 2022

The 2012 Little Bear Fire resulted in substantial loss of vegetation in the Eagle Creek Basin, south-central New Mexico, which has been expected to cause a variety of hydrologic responses that could influence geomorphic change to North Fork Eagle Creek. To monitor geomorphic change, surveys of a downstream study reach of North Fork Eagle Creek were conducted in 2017, 2018, and 2019 by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Village of Ruidoso, N. Mex. The study included surveys of select cross sections, woody debris accumulations, and pools found in the channel of the study reach. During 2017–19, high-flow events resulting from both monsoonal rainfall and snowmelt runoff occurred in the study reach, and the events appeared to have caused some minor localized geomorphic changes in the study reach, which were evaluated through comparison of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 survey results.

Comparisons of the cross-section survey results indicated that minor geomorphic changes had occurred in 4 of the 14 cross sections surveyed from 2017 to 2019. These geomorphic changes included aggradation or degradation of surface materials by about 1–2 feet in some parts of the affected cross sections. During the 2019 survey, 164 distinct accumulations of woody debris and 228 pools were identified in the study reach. Of the woody debris accumulations identified during the 2019 survey, 67 were certain to have also been present during the 2018 survey, and 21 were certain to have also been present during all three surveys (2017–19), indicating that most of the woody debris accumulations surveyed in 2017 were likely transported during the high-flow events between the 2017 and 2018 surveys. Most woody debris accumulations identified in 2019 did not appear to have substantially influenced geomorphic change in the locations where they were found but may have driven local geomorphic changes.

Because the study began 5 years after the 2012 Little Bear Fire and the geomorphic scope of the study has so far been limited, it cannot be said that the changes observed between the 2017 and 2019 surveys are representative of a pattern of geomorphic change following the Little Bear Fire. Once geomorphic changes identified during the 2017 through 2019 surveys can be compared with results from the remaining planned geomorphic surveys, it may be possible to develop an understanding of the patterns in geomorphic change following the 2012 Little Bear Fire.

Publication Year 2022
Title Geomorphic survey of North Fork Eagle Creek, New Mexico, 2019
DOI 10.3133/ofr20221041
Authors Alexander P. Graziano, Shaleene B. Chavarria
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2022-1041
Index ID ofr20221041
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New Mexico Water Science Center