Suspended sediment, turbidity, and stream water temperature in the Sauk River Basin, western Washington, water years 2012-16

Scientific Investigations Report 2017-5113
Prepared in cooperation with Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe
By: , and 



The Sauk River is a federally designated Wild and Scenic River that drains a relatively undisturbed landscape along the western slope of the North Cascade Mountain Range, Washington, which includes the glaciated volcano, Glacier Peak. Naturally high sediment loads characteristic of basins draining volcanoes like Glacier Peak make the Sauk River a dominant contributor of sediment to the downstream main stem river, the Skagit River. Additionally, the Sauk River serves as important spawning and rearing habitat for several salmonid species in the greater Skagit River system. Because of the importance of sediment to morphology, flow-conveyance, and ecosystem condition, there is interest in understanding the magnitude and timing of suspended sediment and turbidity from the Sauk River system and its principal tributaries, the White Chuck and Suiattle Rivers, to the Skagit River.

Suspended-sediment measurements, turbidity data, and water temperature data were collected at two U.S. Geological Survey streamgages in the upper and middle reaches of the Sauk River over a 4-year period extending from October 2011 to September 2015, and at a downstream location in the lower river for a 5-year period extending from October 2011 to September 2016. Over the collective 5-year study period, mean annual suspended-sediment loads at the three streamgages on the upper, middle, and lower Sauk River streamgages were 94,200 metric tons (t), 203,000 t, and 940,000 t streamgages, respectively. Fine (smaller than 0.0625 millimeter) total suspended-sediment load averaged 49 percent at the upper Sauk River streamgage, 42 percent at the middle Sauk River streamgage, and 34 percent at the lower Sauk River streamgage.

Suggested Citation

Jaeger, K.L., Curran, C.A., Anderson, S.W., Morris, S.T., Moran, P.W., and Reams, K.A., 2017, Suspended sediment, turbidity, and stream water temperature in the Sauk River Basin, Washington, water years 2012–16: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2017–5113, 47 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Previous Studies
  • Data-Collection and Processing Methods
  • Suspended Sediment, Turbidity, and Stream Water Temperature in the Sauk River Basin
  • Suspended-Sediment Budget for the Sauk River Basin
  • Hydroclimatic and Geomorphic Controls on Suspended-Sediment Loads
  • Controls on Inter-Annual Variability of Water Temperatures
  • Implications of Turbidity and Water Temperature on Chinook Salmon
  • Summary
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
  • Appendix A. Particle-Size Distribution for Suspended-Sediment Samples Collected at Three Streamgages on the Sauk River, Western Washington, 2012–14
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Suspended sediment, turbidity, and stream water temperature in the Sauk River Basin, western Washington, water years 2012-16
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2017-5113
DOI 10.3133/sir20175113
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Washington Water Science Center
Description Report: vii, 47 p.; Appendix; Data Release
Country United States
State Washington
Other Geospatial Sauk River, Suiattle River
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details