Formation of stationary alternate bars in a steep channel with mixed-size sediment: A flume experiment



Alternate bars were formed by sediment transport in a flume with Froude-modelled flow and relative roughness characteristic of gravel-boulder channels with steep slopes. The flume (0.3 m wide × 7.5 m long) was filled with a sand-gravel mixture, which was also fed into the top of the flume at a constant rate under constant discharge. Channel slope was set at 0.03. Initially, coarse particles accumulated on incipient bar heads near one side of the flume and diverted flow and bedload transport across the flume toward a pool scoured against the opposite flume wall downstream. Sorting in the pool directed coarse particles onto the next bar head downstream. Alternate sequences of pools and coarse bar heads were thereby linked down the entire flume by interactions of sediment sorting, flow, and channel morphology. During episodes of bar construction, unsorted bedload invaded interior bar surfaces and was deposited. Persistent deposition of coarse particles on bar heads prevented downstream migration of bars by inhibiting bar-head erosion and bedload transport over bars. Likely factors leading to bar-head stabilization in modelled gravel-bed channels are coarse mixed-size sediment, steep channel gradients, and shallow depths.