Sand deposition in shoreline eddies along five Wild and Scenic Rivers, Idaho


  • This is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the U.S.A.


Sand bars deposited along the lateral margin of a river channel are frequently a focus of recreational activities. Sand bars are appealing sites on which to camp, picnic, fish and relax because they are relatively flat, soft, non-cohesive sand, free of vegetation and near the water's edge. The lack of vegetation and cohesion make sand bars easily erodible. Without appreciable deposition of new material, number and size of bars through a given reach of river will decline substantially over a period of years. We studied 63 beaches and their associated eddies located throughout 10 selected reaches within the designated Wild and Scenic River sections of the Lochsa, Selway, Middle Fork Clearwater, Middle Fork Salmon and Salmon Rivers in Idaho to determine the relation of beaches to the frequency and magnitude of streamflows that deposit appreciable quantities of sand. At present, these rivers have been altered little, if at all, by flow regulation, and only the Salmon River has substantial diversion upstream of a study reach. The river reaches studied have an abundance of sand bar beaches of appreciable size, in spite of suspended sand concentrations that rarely exceeded a few hundred milligrams per litre even during the largest floods.

Calculated mean annual rates of deposition in an eddy vary from 5.8 to more than 100 cm depending primarily on: (1) the duration of streamflows that inundate the eddy sand bar depositions; (2) the rate of the flow exchange between the channel and an eddy and (3) the concentrations of suspended sand in the primary channel. The annual thickness of sand deposition in an eddy varies greatly from year to year depending on the duration of relatively large streamflows. Maximum annual sand depositions in an eddy are three to nine times the estimated long-term mean values. Relatively large, sustained floods deposit an appreciable portion of total deposition over a period of years. For the period of record, 1930–2002, the seven largest annual depositions, which represent more than 40% of all material deposited over the Lochsa River 21.9 km eddy, occurred in the years with the seven largest instantaneous annual peak floods. Beach area and volume for most beaches, however, are less variable year-to-year than the variation in annual deposition would indicate. Accumulative 10-year weighed deposition rate was computed to estimate the effective variability of beach deposition. Although less variable than the annual deposition, the cumulative 10-year deposition calculated for the longest hydrologic records, 71 years, existing on the Idaho Wild and Scenic Rivers varied by more than an order of magnitude from less than 20 cm to more than 220 cm. Published in 2006 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.