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Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5168

Prepared in cooperation with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs

Recent (circa 1998 to 2011) Channel-Migration Rates of Selected Streams in Indiana

By Bret A. Robinson

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An investigation was completed to document recent (circa 1998 to 2011) channel-migration rates at 970 meander bends along 38 of the largest streams in Indiana. Data collection was completed by using the Google Earth™ platform and, for each selected site, identifying two images with capture dates separated by multiple years. Within each image, the position of the meander-bend cutbank was measured relative to a fixed local landscape feature visible in both images, and an average channel-migration rate was calculated at the point of maximum cutbank displacement. From these data it was determined that 65 percent of the measured sites have recently been migrating at a rate less than 1 ft/yr, 75 percent of the sites have been migrating at a rate less than 10 ft/yr, and while some sites are migrating in excess of 20 ft/yr, these occurrences are rare. In addition, it is shown that recent channel-migration activity is not evenly distributed across Indiana. For the stream reaches studied, far northern and much of far southern Indiana are drained by streams that recently have been relatively stationary. At the same time, this study shows that most of the largest streams in west-central Indiana and many of the largest streams in east-central Indiana have shown significant channel-migration activity during the recent past. It is anticipated that these results will support several fluvial-erosion-hazard mitigation activities currently being undertaken in Indiana.

First posted September 20, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, Indiana Water Science Center
5957 Lakeside Blvd
Indianapolis, IN 46278
Telephone: (317) 290–3333

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Suggested citation:

Robinson, B.A., 2013, Recent (circa 1998 to 2011) channel-migration rates of selected streams in Indiana: U.S. Geological Survey, Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5168, 14 p. plus 1 app.,




Study Methods

Channel-Migration Rates

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited

Appendix 1. Data collected to document recent channel-migration rates at meander bends along selected streams in Indiana

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