Channels that have been scoured to bedrock by debris flows provide unique opportunities to calculate the rate of sediment and wood accumulation in low-order streams, to understand the temporal succession of channel morphology following disturbance, and to make inferences about processes associated with input and transport of sediment. Dendrochronology was used to estimate the time since the previous debris flow and the time since the last stand-replacement fire in unlogged basins in the central Coast Range of Oregon. Debris flow activity increased 42 per cent above the background rate in the decades immediately following the last wildfire. Changes in wood and sediment storage were quantified for 13 streams that ranged from 4 to 144 years since the previous debris flow. The volume of wood and sediment in the channel, and the length of channel with exposed bedrock, were strongly correlated with the time since the previous debris flow. Wood increased the storage capacity of the channel and trapped the majority of the sediment in these steep headwater streams. In the absence of wood, channels that have been scoured to bedrock by a debris flow may lack the capacity to store sediment and could persist in a bedrock state for an extended period of time. With an adequate supply of wood, low-order channels have the potential of storing large volumes of sediment in the interval between debris flows and can function as one of the dominant storage reservoirs for sediment in mountainous terrain. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.