Sand waves, bars, and wind-blown sands of the Rio Orinoco, Venezuela and Colombia

Water Supply Paper 2326-A




During March 1982, a reconnaissance study was carried out along a reach of the Rio Orinoco between Puerto Ayacucho and Ciudad Bolivar. This was the low-flow season. Samples of bed material and suspended sediments were collected, sonic records of the bed were obtained at several locations, and the exposed bars and sand waves were studied at four locations. Sounding records were obtained at two of these locations during June and November when flow covered the bars, and additional studies were made on the ground at some of these same sites during March 1983. The bed of the river is mostly sand with small quantities, about 5 percent by weight on average, of gravel. Suspended- sediment concentrations were low, ranging between 20 milligrams per liter above Rio Apure to almost 40 milligrams per liter below its confluence with the Rio Orinoco. The annual sediment load is estimated to be 240x10 6 megagrams per year. During the dry season, 35 percent or more of the bed is exposed in the form of large bars composed of many sand waves. Trade winds blow upriver and there is substantial upriver transport of river sediments by the wind. If the bars contain very coarse sands and fine gravel, deflation forms a lag deposit that armors the bar surface and prevents further erosion. Theoretical calculations show that the lower limit for the fraction of the bed that needs to be covered with nonmoving particles to prevent further erosion and the smallest size of the armor particles depend only on wind speed. Calculations of bed-material transport were made for a typical wide and narrow section of the river; the annual load, excluding the wash load, is about 30 x 10 6 megagrams per year. A new definition for wash load is proposed; it is material that can be suspended as soon as its motion is initiated. For the Rio Orinoco, this is material finer than 0.1 millimeters.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Sand waves, bars, and wind-blown sands of the Rio Orinoco, Venezuela and Colombia
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. G.P.O. ; For sale by the Books and Open-File Reports Section, U.S. Geological Survey,
xii, 74 p. :ill. (1 col.) ;28 cm.