The morphology and evolution of channels on the Wax Lake Delta, Louisiana, USA
Article first published online: 19 AUG 2013
©2013. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Volume 118, Issue 3, pages 1562–1584, September 2013
How to Cite
2013), The morphology and evolution of channels on the Wax Lake Delta, Louisiana, USA, J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf., 118, 1562–1584, doi:10.1002/jgrf.20123., , and (
- Issue published online: 15 OCT 2013
- Article first published online: 19 AUG 2013
- Accepted manuscript online: 30 JUL 2013 04:03AM EST
- Manuscript Accepted: 20 JUL 2013
- Manuscript Revised: 13 JUL 2013
- Manuscript Received: 4 SEP 2012
- sand transport;
 River deltas are classic depositional systems, but a growing body of literature shows that their channel networks can be erosional. Furthermore, this erosion can attack channel beds of consolidated mud that acts as bedrock. To better understand the channel networks of natural deltas and engineered river diversions, we investigate bathymetric and planimetric change, bed cover, and sediment transport in the Wax Lake Delta (WLD) in coastal Louisiana, USA. Channels have eroded up to 40% of modern flow depth between the WLD's initiation in 1973 and 1999. Aerial image analysis shows that channels have widened by 11% between 1991 and 2009, forcing the downstream migration of islands. Channel beds are composed of 85–98% muddy bedrock, with the remainder covered by alluvial sands. Water velocity, grain size, and suspended sand concentration measurements during the 2009 spring flood show that almost all available grain sizes are transported in suspension. Flow was supply limited during this period, with the calculated sand concentration at the height of the bed load layer is 1–4 orders of magnitude smaller than predicted for saturated sand transport. We test “the cover effect” and “the tools effect” previously proposed for bedrock erosion in upland river channels. Bedrock erosion and alluvial cover are anti-correlated (the cover effect), but the observations do not closely follow previously proposed relationships. The difference in erosion rate between clear water and sand-rich water shows that abrasion by sand (the tools effect) accounts for 51% ± 56% of bedrock erosion when it is present.