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Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5114

Prepared in cooperation with Onondaga Lake Partnership and
Onondaga Environmental Institute

Causes and Movement of Landslides at Rainbow Creek and Rattlesnake Gulf in the Tully Valley, Onondaga County, New York

By Kathryn Tamulonis, William Kappel, and Stephen Shaw


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Two landslides in the Tully Valley of central New York are moving slowly toward their respective streams (Rainbow Creek and Rattlesnake Gulf). Data on soil displacement (landslide movement), groundwater levels in both landslide areas, and precipitation on the Tully Valley floor were collected from June 2006 through June 2008. Analyses of the data indicate the displacement of shallow, weathered soils in upslope areas is related to heavy rainstorms and the associated rise in groundwater levels above the unweathered soil layer, whereas shallow-soil displacement on the lower, steepest parts of these landslide areas is due to stream-generated erosion of the landslide toe and to decreased stability of the soil through saturation by groundwater. The upslope progression of soil displacement results in slope failure, which in turn undermines small landmasses in the shallow zone and causes further slope failure.

For additional information contact:
U.S. Geological Survey
New York Water Science Center
425 Jordan Road
Troy, NY 12180

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Suggested citation:

Tamulonis, K.L., Kappel, W.M., and Shaw, S.B., 2009, Causes and movement of landslides at Rainbow Creek and Rattlesnake Gulf in the Tully Valley, Onondaga County, New York: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5114, 18 p.




Tully Valley Study Area

Landslides in the Tully Valley

Rainbow Creek Landslide

Rattlesnake Gulf Landslide

Landslide Monitoring

Measurement of Precipitation and Groundwater Levels


Tree Displacement Transects

Rainbow Creek Landslide

Rattlesnake Gulf Landslide


Groundwater Level

Rainbow Creek Landslide Photographs

Rattlesnake Gulf Photographs

Rainbow Creek Landslide

Rattlesnake Creek Landslide

Landslide Activity in the Tully Valley Since the Late 1930s

Landslides in Relation to Precipitation and Groundwater Levels

Rainbow Creek Landslide

Rattlesnake Gulf Landslide

Summary and Conclusions

Geotechnical Properties of Rainbow Creek and Rattlesnake Gulf Landslide Soils

References Cited

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