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Keywords:

  • river sand beaches;
  • depositional settings;
  • whitewater recreation

Abstract

The numbers and sizes of sand beaches suitable for recreation along selected whitewater rivers in the western United States depend on sand concentrations, range of discharge and the size, frequency and type of depositional settings. River-width expansions downstream from constrictions are the predominant depositional setting for sand beaches in the upper Grand Canyon and along five Wild and Scenic Rivers in Idaho, but not along other rivers. Beaches located upstream from constrictions are rare, in general, except in the Grand Canyon. Beaches found in expansions without constrictions dominate depositional sites along the Yampa and Green Rivers, are fairly common along the rivers in Idaho, but are relatively rare in the Grand Canyon. The magnitude of flow expansion is a reliable predictor of beach size. Beaches located on the inside of curves are uncommon, in general, but can be important recreation sites. The mid-channel bar setting is the least important from a recreation standpoint because that setting is rare and beaches there are typically small, and emergent only at low flow.

The frequency of beaches is highly variable among rivers and the concentration of sand in transport is only partially responsible. Of the rivers studied, the unregulated Yampa River carries the highest concentrations of suspended sand and has among the most beaches (1.2 beaches km−1). Emergent sand beaches are essentially nonexistent along the Deschutes River and are rare along other Oregon rivers, yet these rivers transport some sand. Sand beaches are fairly common (0.8–1.1 beaches km−1) along the regulated Colorado River, but are comparatively rare (0.6 beaches km−1) along the unregulated Middle Fork Salmon River. The suspended sand concentrations in study reaches of these two rivers are similar, and the difference in the frequency of beaches may be largely because the processes that create beach-deposition settings are less active along the Middle Fork Salmon. Published in 2008 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.