Erosion and sedimentation in the Kenai River, Alaska

Open-File Report 81-219




The Kenai River is the most important freshwater fishery in Alaska. The flow regime is characterized by high summer flow of glacial meltwater and periodic flooding caused by sudden releases of glacier-dammed lakes in the headwaters. Every part of the stream is a known or potential salmon-spawning site. The stream channel is underfit, attributed to regional glacial recession and drainage changes, and locally is entrenched in response to geologically recent changes in base level. Throughout the central section of the river the channel is armored, a condition with implications for the ability of this section of channel to support the spawning and rearing of salmon. The entrenched section of the channel has been stable since 1951. Bank erosion is active both upstream and downstream from the entrenched channel, however. Although erosion rates have been generally constant since 1951, evidence suggests a possible recent decrease in bank stability that may be related to changes in river use. As population and recreation use increases, development can pose a hazard to the productivity of the stream through increased suspended-sediment concentration resulting directly from construction and, with greater potential for long-term impact, indirectly from bank erosion. A short-term hazard to both stream and developments is the cutoff of meander loops, the risk of which is increased by canals and boat slips cut in the surface layer of cohesive, erosion-resistant sediment on the flood plain within nonentrenched meander loops. A long-term hazard is an increase in bank erosion rates resulting from loss of vegetation on the high (up to 70 feet) cutbanks of entrenched and partially entrenched sections. (USGS)

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Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Erosion and sedimentation in the Kenai River, Alaska
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Superceded by: PP 1235
Year Published:
vi, 116 p. : ill., maps ; 28 cm.