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Open-File Report 2010–1314

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Channel Change and Bed-Material Transport in the Umpqua River Basin, Oregon

By J. Rose Wallick, Jim E. O’Connor, Scott Anderson, Mackenzie Keith, Charles Cannon, and John C. Risley

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (10.2 MB)ABSTRACT

The Umpqua River drains 12,103 km2 of western Oregon, heading in the Cascade Range and draining portions of the Klamath Mountains and Coast Range before entering the Pacific Ocean. Above the head of tide, the Umpqua River, along with its major tributaries, the North and South Umpqua Rivers, flows on a mixed bedrock and alluvium bed, alternating between bedrock rapids and intermittent, shallow gravel bars composed of gravel to cobble-sized clasts. These bars have been a source of commercial aggregate since the mid-twentieth century. Below the head of tide, the Umpqua River contains large bars composed of mud and sand.

Motivated by ongoing permitting and aquatic habitat concerns related to instream gravel mining on the fluvial reaches, this study evaluated spatial and temporal trends in channel change and bed-material transport for 350 km of river channel along the Umpqua, North Umpqua, and South Umpqua Rivers. The assessment produced (1) detailed mapping of the active channel, using aerial photographs and repeat surveys and (2) a quantitative estimation of bed-material flux that drew upon detailed measurements of particle size and lithology, equations of transport capacity, and a sediment yield analysis.

Bed-material transport capacity estimates at 45 sites throughout the South Umpqua and mainstem Umpqua Rivers for the period 1951–2008 result in wide-ranging transport capacity estimates, reflecting the difficulty of applying equations of bed-material transport to a supply-limited river. Median transport capacity values calculated from surface-based equations of bedload transport for each of the study reaches provide indications of maximum possible transport rates and range from 8,000 to 27,000 metric tons/yr for the South Umpqua River and 20,000 to 82,000 metric tons/yr for the mainstem Umpqua River upstream of the head of tide; the North Umpqua River probably contributes little bed material. A plausible range of average annual transport rates for the South and mainstem Umpqua Rivers, based on bedload transport capacity estimates for bars with reasonable values for reference shear stress, is between 500 and 20,000 metric tons/yr.

An empirical bed-material yield analysis predicts 20,000–50,000 metric tons/yr on the South Umpqua River and mainstem Umpqua River through the Coast Range, decreasing to approximately 30,000 metric tons/yr at the head of tide. Surveys of individual mining sites in the South Umpqua River indicate minimum local bed-material flux rates that are typically less than 10,000 metric tons/yr but that range up to 30,600 metric tons/yr in high-flow years.

On the basis of all of these analyses, actual bedload flux in most years is probably less than 25,000 metric tons/yr in the South Umpqua River and Umpqua Rivers, with the North Umpqua River probably contributing negligible amounts. For comparison, the estimated annual volume of commercial gravel extraction from the South Umpqua River between 2001 and 2004 ranged from 610 to 36,570 metric tons, indicating that historical instream gravel extraction may have been a substantial fraction of the overall bedload flux.

First posted January 5, 2011

For additional information contact:
Director, Oregon Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
2130 SW 5th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97201

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Suggested citation:

Wallick, J.R., O'Connor, J.E., Anderson, Scott, Keith, Mackenzie, Cannon, Charles, and Risley, John C., 2010, Channel change and bed-material transport in the Umpqua River basin, Oregon: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1314, 135 p. and 3 appendices.




The Umpqua River

Valley Bottom Mapping and Analysis of Historical Channel Change

Bed Material Characterization and Transport

Summary and Conclusions


References Cited

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

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