Redwood Creek, north coastal California, USA, has experienced dramatic changes in channel configuration since the 1950s. A series of large floods (in 1955, 1964, 1972 and 1975) combined with the advent of widespread commercial timber harvest and road building resulted in extensive erosion in the basin and contributed high sediment loads to Redwood Creek. Since 1975, no peak flows have exceeded a 5 year recurrence interval. Twenty years of cross‐sectional survey data document the downstream movement of a ‘sediment wave’ in the lower 26 km of this gravel‐bedded river at a rate of 800 to 1600 m a−1 during this period of moderately low flows. Higher transit rates are associated with reaches of higher unit stream power. The wave was initially deposited at a site with an abrupt decrease in channel gradient and increase in channel width. The amplitude of the wave has attenuated more than 1 m as it moved downstream, and the duration of the wave increased from eight years upstream to more than 20 years downstream. Channel aggradation and subsequent degradation have been accommodated across the entire channel bed. Channel width has not decreased significantly after initial channel widening from large (>25 year recurrence interval) floods. Three sets of longitudinal surveys of the streambed showed the highest increase in pool depths and frequency in a degrading reach, but even the aggrading reach exhibited some pool development through time. The aggraded channel bed switched from functioning as a sediment sink to a significant sediment source as the channel adjusted to high sediment loads. From 1980 to 1990, sediment eroded from temporary channel storage represented about 25 per cent of the total sediment load and 95 per cent of the bedload exported from the basin.
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms – Wiley
Published: Oct 1, 1996
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