Geomorphic Survey of North Fork Eagle Creek, New Mexico, 2017

Open-File Report 2018-1187
Prepared in cooperation with the Village of Ruidoso, New Mexico



About one-quarter of the water supply for the Village of Ruidoso, New Mexico, is derived from groundwater pumping along North Fork Eagle Creek in the Eagle Creek Basin near Alto, New Mexico. Because of concerns regarding the effects of groundwater pumping on surface-water hydrology in the Eagle Creek Basin and the effects of the 2012 Little Bear Fire, which resulted in substantial losses of vegetation in the basin, the monitoring of North Fork Eagle Creek for short-term geomorphic change has been required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Lincoln National Forest, as part of the permitting decision that allows for the continued pumping of the production wells. The monitoring of short-term geomorphic change in North Fork Eagle Creek began in June 2017 with a geomorphic survey of the stream reach located between the North Fork Eagle Creek near Alto, New Mexico, streamflow-gaging station (USGS site 08387550) and the Eagle Creek below South Fork near Alto, New Mexico, streamflow-gaging station (USGS site 08387600). The 2017 geomorphic survey was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Village of Ruidoso, and was the first in a planned series of five annual geomorphic surveys. The results of the 2017 geomorphic survey are summarized and interpreted in this report and are provided in their entirety in its companion data release.

The study reach is 1.86 miles long, and large sections of the reach are characterized by intermittent streamflow. Where water is normally present (including at the upper and lower portions of the reach near the streamflow-gaging stations), the discharge typically remains below 2 cubic feet per second throughout the year. Therefore, if geomorphic change is to occur, it will likely be driven by seasonal high-flow events. Discharge records from streamflow-gaging stations in the Eagle Creek Basin indicated that high-flow events in the basin (with peaks above 50 cubic feet per second) typically occurred during the North American monsoon months of July, August, and September. Additionally, the records appear to indicate that, as expected, overland runoff and “flashy” responses to rainfall have increased in the 5 years since the 2012 Little Bear Fire.

For the 2017 geomorphic survey of North Fork Eagle Creek, cross sections were established and surveyed at 14 locations along the study reach. Cross-section survey results indicated that channel characteristics (including channel width and area) varied widely along the study reach. Also, as part of the survey, woody debris accumulations and pools in the channel of the study reach were identified, cataloged, photographed, and surveyed for location. There were 58 woody debris accumulations and 14 pools found in the study reach. On the basis that debris jams could be a driver of geomorphic change in North Fork Eagle Creek, woody debris accumulations were classified according to their debris jam potential. The burn marks found on some woody debris indicated that the 2012 Little Bear Fire may be a contributing factor to the volume of debris in North Fork Eagle Creek. However, the woody debris present at the time of the survey did not appear to have substantially affected the geomorphic state of the study reach. Further, the structure and composition of the woody debris accumulations indicated that, under high-flow conditions, most woody debris would likely be transported downstream and out of the study reach without causing substantial geomorphic change through further jamming.

Suggested Citation

Graziano, A.P., 2019, Geomorphic survey of North Fork Eagle Creek, New Mexico, 2017: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018–1187, 28 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Geomorphic Survey of North Fork Eagle Creek in 2017
  • Potential for Geomorphic Change to North Fork Eagle Creek
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Geomorphic survey of North Fork Eagle Creek, New Mexico, 2017
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2018-1187
DOI 10.3133/ofr20181187
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) New Mexico Water Science Center
Description Report: v., 28 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State New Mexico
Other Geospatial North Fork Eagle Creek
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details