Assessment of Post-Wildfire Geomorphic Change in the North Fork Eagle Creek Stream Channel, New Mexico, 2017–21

Scientific Investigations Report 2023-5116
Prepared in cooperation with the Village of Ruidoso, New Mexico
By: , and 



The 2012 Little Bear Fire caused substantial vegetation loss in the Eagle Creek Basin of south-central New Mexico. This loss was expected to alter the localized hydrologic response to precipitation by creating conditions that amplify surface runoff, which might alter the geomorphology of North Fork Eagle Creek, a major tributary to Eagle Creek. To monitor short-term geomorphic change, annual geomorphic surveys of North Fork Eagle Creek were conducted from 2017 to 2021. The surveys measured 14 cross sections, stream gradients, woody debris accumulations, and pools found within the study reach. During the 2017–21 study period, the study reach experienced multiple high-flow events that resulted from both monsoonal rainfall and snowmelt runoff. Comparisons of the cross-section and channel profile data for the repeat geomorphic surveys indicate localized erosion and deposition occurred as a result of the high-flow events but overall study reach geomorphology shower little change through the study period. Additionally, the number of woody debris accumulations and pools increased during the study period. Evidence from the 5-year geomorphic survey indicates that the North Fork Eagle Creek’s geomorphology did not change substantially during the study period. Wildfire severity and frequency within mountainous regions of the Southwest are projected to increase and their effect on fluvial systems remains uncertain; however, continued geomorphic studies can provide informative insight on watershed post-wildfire resiliency and recovery by establishing baselines that can be used in the event of a future severe wildfire within the Eagle Creek Basin.

Suggested Citation

Nichols, J.R., Chavarria, S.B., and Graziano, A.P., 2023, Assessment of post-wildfire geomorphic change in the North Fork Eagle Creek stream channel, New Mexico, 2017–21: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2023–5116, 48 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Geomorphic Survey of North Fork Eagle Creek From 2017 to 2021
  • Discussion
  • Summary
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Assessment of post-wildfire geomorphic change in the North Fork Eagle Creek stream channel, New Mexico, 2017–21
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2023-5116
DOI 10.3133/sir20235116
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) New Mexico Water Science Center
Description Report: vi, 48 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State New Mexico
Other Geospatial North Fork Eagle Creek Stream Channel
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details