Ontogeny of a flood plain

Geological Society of America Bulletin

, , and


  • The Publications Warehouse does not have links to digital versions of this publication at this time
  • Download citation as: RIS


The ontogeny of five flood-plain segments is described for a period of 18 yr following a major flood in 1978 on the Powder River in southeastern Montana. The flood plains developed on relatively elevated sand and gravel deposits left within the channel by the 1978 flood. In cross section, the flood plains resemble benches with well-developed natural levees. Flood-plain growth occurred as sediment was draped onto preexisting surfaces in layers of sand and mud a few centimeters to decimeters thick, resulting in some lateral, but mostly vertical accretion. Annual and biannual measurements indicated that, as the flood-plain segments grew upward, the annual rate of vertical accretion decreased as the partial duration recurrence interval for the threshold or bankfull discharge increased from 0.16 to 1.3 yr. It is clear that a constant recurrence interval for overbank flow cannot be meaningfully assigned to this type of flood-plain ontogeny. These flood plains did not grow on migrating point bars, and vertical accretion at least initially occurred within the channel, rather than across the valley flat during extensive overbank flows. Sediments of these flood plains define narrow, elongated stratigraphic units that border the active channel and onlap older flood-plain deposits. These characteristics are considerably different from those of many facies models for meandering river deposits. Facies similar to those described in this paper are likely to be preserved, thereby providing important evidence in the geologic record for episodes of periodic channel expansion by ancient rivers.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Ontogeny of a flood plain
Series title:
Geological Society of America Bulletin
Year Published:
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Geological Society of America Bulletin
First page:
Last page: