• dryland rivers;
  • sand bed streams;
  • scour and fill;
  • sediment transport

[1] Spatial patterns of scour and fill in two dryland ephemeral stream channels with sandy bed material have been measured with dense arrays of scour chains. Although the depth and areal extent of bed activity increased with discharge, active bed reworking at particular locations within the reaches resulted in downstream patterns of alternate shallower and deeper areas of scour. The variation was such that mean scour depths for individual cross sections varied about the mean for the reach by a factor of 2–4 while the locus of maximum scour traced a sinuous path about the channel centerline. The wavelength of the pattern of scour was about seven times the channel width. During each event, compensating fill returned the streambeds to preflow elevations, indicating that the streams were in approximate steady state over the period of study. Although the patterns of periodically enhanced scour along alternate sides of the channels are consistent with models of periodically reversing helical flow, further work is required to identify the causal relationships between patterns of flow and sediment transport in dryland sand bed channels.