Methods for computing the volume of sand deposited in the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park by floods in major tributaries and for determining redistribution of that sand by main-channel flows are required for successful management of sand-dependent riparian resources. We have derived flow, sediment transport, and bed evolution models based on a gridded topography developed from measured channel topography and used these models to compute deposition in a short reach of the river just downstream from the Little Colorado River, the largest tributary in the park. Model computations of deposition from a Little Colorado River flood in January 1993 were compared to bed changes measured at 15 cross sections. The total difference between changes in cross-sectional area due to deposition computed by the model and the measured changes was 6%. A wide reach with large areas of recirculating flow and large depressions in the main channel accumulated the most sand, whereas a reach with similar planimetric area but a long, narrow shape and relatively small areas of recirculating flow and small depressions in the main channel accumulated only about a seventh as much sand. About 32% of the total deposition was in recirculation zones, 65% was in the main channel, and 3% was deposited along the channel margin away from the recirculation zone. Overall, about 15% of the total input of sand from this Little Colorado River flood was deposited in the first 3 km below the confluence, suggesting that deposition of the flood-derived material extended for only several tens of kilometers downstream from the confluence.
Additional publication details
Sand deposition in the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon from flooding of the Little Colorado River