During December 1977 and January 1978 about 280 measurements were made of the depths of channels (arroyos) more than 6 feet deep in the San Juan Basin area. More than half of the measurements were made at sites where channel depths had been previously measured Between 1964 and 1969. Some channels in the western part of the basin had Been re-measured in 1969 and in 1971.
The principal areas Being dissected by arroyos are near highlands along the margins of the Basin and in uplands in the northeastern part of the Basin. The most severe dissection by arroyos and the deepest arroyos--commonly Between 40 and 60 feet deep--are in the southeastern part of the Basin. Dissection By arroyos is least in the central part of the Basin near the Chaco River where most arroyos are less than 10 feet deep. Elsewhere, moderate dissection predominates with most arroyos Between 12 and 40 feet deep.
Comparison of measurements made from 1964-71 with those made in 1977-78 shows that more channels in the western San Juan Basin were filling than were downcutting. Downcutting or filling was generally less than 2 feet. About two-fifths of the sites measured showed less than half a foot of downcutting or filling. Maximum downcutting was 4 feet along the Rio San Jose in the southeastern part of the basin. Maximum filling of 7 feet was along the Chaco River at the Chaco Canyon National Monument. Along ii other streams elsewhere in the western part of the basin, channels were filled 3 to 4.5 feet. The few measurements made in the southeastern San Juan Basin indicate that since 1964 downcutting has predominated over filling.
Large floods during the summer of 1977 caused some change in channel depths in the southwestern part of the San Juan Basin. Some of the channels appeared to have been filled during the years prior to the cutting that occurred from the 1977 floods. At other places, flood flows aggraded (filled) channels.
The rate of erosion and arroyo formation in the entire San Juan Basin is effected by man. The southeastern part of the basin--having been occupied by man for several centuries--shows the greatest effects of man on the rate of arroyo formation. Recent urban developments, particularly near Gallup, also appear to have affected the rate of erosion and arroyo formation. In contrast, arroyos appear to be aggrading below many earth-fill dams.
In general, the effects of the petroleum, coal, and uranium exploration and development on arroyo formation have been minimal because the main trenching of the arroyos predates oil and mining operations. Some modification--degradation or aggradation--of the arroyos and local trenching of new arroyos have taken place in the area of some of the mines. Most of the observed effects from the mining operations on erosion and aggradation relate to the discharge of mine and mill water into the nearby streams.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Depths of channels in the area of the San Juan Basin Regional Uranium Study, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah
v, 41,  leaves : ill., maps (5 fold. in pocket) ; 28 cm.