Analyses of flow, sediment-transport, bed-topographic, and sedimentologic data suggest that before the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, the Colorado River in Marble and Grand Canyons was annually supply-limited with respect to fine sediment (i.e., sand and finer material). Furthermore, these analyses suggest that the predam river in Glen Canyon was not supply-limited to the same degree and that the degree of annual supply limitation increased near the head of Marble Canyon. The predam Colorado River in Grand Canyon displays evidence of four effects of supply limitation: (1) seasonal hysteresis in sediment concentration, (2) seasonal hysteresis in sediment grain size coupled to the seasonal hysteresis in sediment concentration, (3) production of inversely graded flood deposits, and (4) development or modification of a lag between the time of a flood peak and the time of either maximum or minimum (depending on reach geometry) bed elevation. Analyses of sediment budgets provide additional support for the interpretation that the predam river was annually supply-limited with respect to fine sediment, but it was not supply-limited with respect to fine sediment during all seasons. In the average predam year, sand would accumulate and be stored in Marble Canyon and upper Grand Canyon for 9 months of the year (from July through March) when flows were dominantly below 200-300 m3/s; this stored sand was then eroded during April through June when flows were typically higher. After closure of Glen Canyon Dam, because of the large magnitudes of the uncertainties in the sediment budget, no season of substantial sand accumulation is evident. Because most flows in the postdam river exceed 200-300 m3/s, substantial sand accumulation in the postdam river is unlikely.
Additional publication details
Colorado River sediment transport 1. Natural sediment supply limitation and the influence of Glen Canyon Dam