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Mass movement and storms in the drainage basin of Redwood Creek, Humboldt County, California — A progress report

January 1, 1978

Numerous active landslides are clearly significant contributors to high sediment loads in the Redwood Creek basin. Field and aerial-photograph inspections indicate that large mass-movement features, such as earthflows and massive streamside debris slides, occur primarily in terrain underlain by unmetamorphosed or slightly metamorphosed sedimentary rocks. These features cannot account for stream sediment derived from schist. Observed lithologic heterogeneity of stream sediment therefore suggests that large-scale mass movement is only one part of a complex suite of processes supplying sediment to streams in this basin. Other significant sediment contributors include various forms of fluvial erosion and small-scale discrete mass failures, particularly on oversteepened hillslopes adjacent to perennial streams. Photo-interpretive studies of landslide and timber-harvest history adjacent to Redwood Creek, together with analysis of regional precipitation and runoff records for six flood-producing storms between 1953 and 1975, indicate that loci and times of significant streamside landsliding are influenced by both local storm intensity and streamside logging. Analysis of rainfall records and historic accounts indicates that the individual storms comprising a late-19th-century series of storms in northwestern California were similar in magnitude and spacing to those of the past 25 years. The recent storms apparently initiated more streamside landslides than comparable earlier storms, which occurred prior to extensive road construction and timber harvest.

Field observations and repeated surveys of stake arrays at 10 sites in the basin indicate that earthflows are especially active during prolonged periods of moderate rainfall; but that during brief intense storms, fluvial processes are the dominant erosion mechanism. Stake movement occurs mostly during wet winter months. Spring and summer movement was detected at some moist streamside sites. Surveys of stake arrays in two recently logged areas did not indicate exceptionally rapid rates of movement in three years following timber harvest.

Publication Year 1978
Title Mass movement and storms in the drainage basin of Redwood Creek, Humboldt County, California — A progress report
DOI 10.3133/ofr78486
Authors Deborah Reid Harden, Richard J. Janda, K. Michael Nolan
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 78-486
Index ID ofr78486
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse