Geomorphic characteristics of Tenmile Creek, Montgomery County, Maryland, 2014–16

Scientific Investigations Report 2018-5098
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection
By:  and 



Data collected from April 2014 through September 2016 were used to assess geomorphic characteristics and geomorphic changes over time in a selected reach of Tenmile Creek, a small rural watershed near Clarksburg, Maryland. Longitudinal profiles of the channel bed, water surface, and bank features were developed from field surveys. Changes in cross-section geometry between field surveys were documented. Grain-size distributions for the channel bed were developed from pebble counts. Continuous-record streamflow and precipitation data were also collected in the Tenmile Creek watershed and used to supplement the geomorphic analyses.

The Rosgen system of stream classification was used to classify the stream channel according to morphological measurements of slope, entrenchment ratio, width-to-depth ratio, sinuosity, and median particle diameter of the channel materials. Boundary shear stress near the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) streamflow-gaging station was assessed by using hydraulic variables computed from the cross-section surveys and slope measurements derived from crest-stage gages and temporary data loggers installed along the study reach.

Analysis of the longitudinal profiles indicated relatively small changes in the percentage and distribution of riffles, pools, and runs in the study reach between April 2014 and March 2015. More noticeable changes were observed during surveys conducted in March 2016 and September 2016. The channel-bed slope showed a net reduction over time from 0.0072 to 0.0040 feet per foot (ft/ft). The low-flow water-surface slope also showed a net reduction over time from 0.0065 to 0.0045 ft/ft. Net aggradation in the lower section of the study reach combined with net degradation in the upper section of the study reach contributed to the net reduction in channel-bed and water-surface slope. The large storm and resulting flood on July 30, 2016 was a major factor in observed changes in the longitudinal profiles between the March 2016 and September 2016 surveys.

Comparison of data from the cross-sectional surveys indicated vertical changes in all cross sections, with more extreme changes observed between surveys in the lower section of the study reach due in part to alternating periods of net storage and transport of sand. Lateral erosion was not a major factor in the study reach, with the exception of cross section Dd, where considerable lateral erosion was documented during the study period. The flood that resulted from the large storm on July 30, 2016 was a major factor in some of the vertical changes observed in the channel bed of the study reach cross sections.

Particle-size analyses of the channel bed from pebble counts indicated median particle diameters ranging from 15.5 millimeters (mm) to 23.1 mm, which is characterized as medium to coarse gravel. Sand percentages ranging from 3.4 percent to 16.4 percent of the total counts were observed over time. Net increases in storage of fine sediment in the reach were observed between April 2014 and March 2016, and a considerable reduction in storage was observed between March 2016 and September 2016.

The Tenmile Creek stream channel was classified as a C4 channel, based on morphological descriptions from the Rosgen system of stream classification. The C4 classification describes a single-thread channel with a slight entrenchment ratio; a moderate to high width-to-depth ratio; moderate to high sinuosity; a water-surface slope of less than 2 percent; and a median particle diameter in the gravel range of 2 to 64 mm.

The analysis of boundary shear stress indicated a range of 0.35 to 1.18 pounds per square foot for instantaneous streamflow ranging from 79 to 2,860 cubic feet per second during the study period. The relation between discharge and boundary shear stress for Tenmile Creek was compared to similar relations that were previously developed for Minebank Run, a small, urban watershed in the eastern section of the Piedmont Physiographic Province in Baltimore County, Md. that was physically restored during 2004–05. The comparison indicated a much flatter slope in the relation for Minebank Run in both its unrestored and restored conditions. This difference in the relations indicates that the erosive power in the urban watershed of Minebank Run is much more sensitive to increases in discharge magnitude than in the non-urban watershed of Tenmile Creek.

Suggested Citation

Doheny, E.J., and Baker, S.M., 2018, Geomorphic characteristics of Tenmile Creek, Montgomery County, Maryland, 2014–16: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2018–5098, 34 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods of Data Collection
  • Geomorphic Characteristics
  • Data Limitations
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Glossary
  • Appendix 1. Changes in Cross-Section Geometry at Permanent Cross Sections for Bankfull Conditions, Tenmile Creek Study Reach, April 2014 through September 2016

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Geomorphic characteristics of Tenmile Creek, Montgomery County, Maryland, 2014–16
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2018-5098
DOI 10.3133/sir20185098
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Maryland Water Science Center
Description Report: viii, 34 p.; Data release
Country United States
State Maryland
County Montgomery County
Other Geospatial Tenmile Creek watershed
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N