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Tributary debris fans and the late Holocene alluvial chronology of the Colorado River, eastern Grand Canyon, Arizona

Geological Society of America Bulletin

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Abstract

Bouldery debris fans and sandy alluvial terraces of the Colorado River developed contemporaneously during the late Holocene at the mouths of nine major tributaries in eastern Grand Canyon. The age of the debris fans and alluvial terraces contributes to understanding river hydraulics and to the history of human activity along the river, which has been concentrated on these surfaces for at least two to three millennia. Poorly sorted, coarse-grained debris-flow deposits of several ages are interbedded with, overlie, or are overlapped by three terrace-forming alluviums. The alluvial deposits are of three age groups: the striped alluvium, deposited from before 770 B.C. to about A.D. 300; the alluvium of Pueblo II age deposited from about A.D. 700 to 1200; and the alluvium of the upper mesquite terrace, deposited from about A.D. 1400 to 1880. Two elements define the geomorphology of a typical debris fan: the large, inactive surface of the fan and a smaller, entrenched, active debris-flow channel and fan that is about one-sixth the area of the inactive fan. The inactive fan is segmented into at least three surfaces with distinctive weathering characteristics. These surfaces are conformable with underlying debris-flow deposits that date from before 770 B.C. to around A.D. 660, A.D. 660 to before A.D. 1200, and from A.D. 1200 to slightly before 1890, respectively, based on late-19th-century photographs, radiocarbon and archaeologic dating of the three stratigraphically related alluviums, and radiocarbon dating of fine-grained debris-flow deposits. These debris flows aggraded the fans in at least three stages beginning about 2.8 ka, if not earlier in the late Holocene. Several main-stem floods eroded the margin of the segmented fans, reducing fan symmetry. The entrenched, active debris-flow channels contain deposits <100 yr old, which form debris fans at the mouth of the channel adjacent to the river. Early and middle Holocene debris-flow and alluvial deposits have not been recognized, as they were evidently not preserved adjacent to the river or are buried by younger deposits.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Tributary debris fans and the late Holocene alluvial chronology of the Colorado River, eastern Grand Canyon, Arizona
Series title:
Geological Society of America Bulletin
Volume
108
Issue:
1
Year Published:
1996
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Geological Society of America Bulletin
First page:
3
Last page:
19