Channel-changing processes on the Santa Cruz River, Pima County, Arizona, 1936-86

Edited by:
French Richard H.


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Lateral channel change on the mainly ephemeral Santa Cruz River, Pima County, Arizona, causes damage and has spawned costly efforts to control bank erosion. Aerial photographs, historical data, and field observations are used to document the history of channel change since 1936. Variability in the nature and degree of channel change over time and space is shown. Three major channel change processes are: (1) migration by bank erosion during meander migration or initiation; (2) avulsion by overbank flooding and flood plain incision; (3) widening by erosion of low, cohesionless banks during floods and arroyo widening by undercutting and mass wasting of deeply incised vertical walls. The first process generally is a product of low to moderate flows or waning high flows; the others result mainly from higher flows, though sensitive arroyo walls may erode during relatively low flows. Channel morphology, bank resistance, and hydrology are factors determining the dominant channel-changing process on a particular reach of the river. Present river morphology reflects high flows since the 1960's.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Conference Paper
Publication Subtype:
Conference Paper
Channel-changing processes on the Santa Cruz River, Pima County, Arizona, 1936-86
Year Published:
Publ by ASCE
Publisher location:
Boston, MA, United States
Larger Work Title:
Hydraulics/Hydrology of Arid Lands
First page:
Last page:
Conference Title:
Proceedings of the International Symposium on Hydraulics/Hydrology of Arid Lands and 1990 National Conference on Hydraulic Engineering
Conference Location:
San Diego, CA, USA
Conference Date:
30 July 1990 through 2 August 1990