Recent Sedimentation and Surface-Water Flow Patterns on the Flood Plain of the North Fork Forked Deer River, Dyer County, Tennesee

U.S. Geological Survey, Water-Resources Investigations Report 92-4082

by William J. Wolfe and Timothy H. Diehl

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Sedimentation in the 19th and 20th centuries has had a major effect on surface-water drainage conditions along a 7-mile section of the North, Fork Forked Deer River flood plain, Dyer County, Tenn. During the century prior to 1930, 5 to 12 feet of sediment were deposited over much of the flood plain, resulting in channel obstruction and widespread flooding. The estimated bankfull capacity of the natural channel before it was channelized in 19 16 was comparable to the base flow of the river during the 1980's.

Ditching of the river between 191i6 and 1;9,21 was followed by reductions in sedimentation rates over parts of the flood plain. However, the effects of sedimentation have persisted. Occlusions along the natural channel of the river have divided this stream reach into a series of sloughs. These sloughs continue to fill with sediment and are surrounded by ponds that have expanded since 1941.

Degradation of the North Fork Forked Deer ditch may eventually reduce ponding over much of the flood plain. Active incision of headcuts in both banks of the ditch is enhancing the drainage of widespread ponded areas. These headcuts likely will have limited effect on drainage of most tributaries.

The highest recent sedimentation rates, in places more than 0.2 foot per year, are concentrated near the flood-plain margin along tributary streams. In conjunction with beaver dams and debris, ongoing sedimentation has blocked flow in several tributaries, posing a flood hazard to agricultural land near the flood-plain margin. The occluded tributaries likely will continue to overflow unless they are periodically dredged or their sediment loads are reduced.

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