A new set of field data facilitates a detailed analysis of variations in bed material grain size within two confluent gravel-bed rivers in northeastern British Columbia, Canada. A preliminary assessment of grain-size variability establishes a basis for examination of the spatial pattern of grain-size change. Standard ANOVA techniques are inappropriate because individual samples have unequal variances and are not normally distributed. Alternative tests for homoscedasticity and comparison of means are therefore utilized. Within-site, between-sample variability is not significant. The grain-size distributions that were obtained at individual sites are therefore representative of the depositional environments that were sampled. In both rivers mean grain size does vary significantly between sites and there is therefore a basis for examining the data for spatial patterns such as downstream fining.
Textural variations along the two rivers studied here are complex and show negligible overall fining (in over 100 km). This is the consequence of a large number of tributary inputs and non-alluvial sediment sources which are the legacy of Late Pleistocene glaciation. The identification of lateral sources like these is fundamental for understanding textural changes within rivers. The sedimentary link (a channel reach between significant lateral sediment inputs) provides a means of isolating fluvial maturation processes (abrasion and sorting) from contingent lateral inputs. Strong fining trends are apparent in most links and classification of grain-size measurements according to their location within particular links greatly improves the statistical explanation of textural variation. Identification of sedimentary links provides a means of applying models of fluvial fining processes, so isolation of link networks will aid the development of basin-scale models of textural variation. © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.