Evolution of coarse gravel bed forms: Field measurements at flood stage


  • Randy L. Dinehart


Field measurements to investigate the origin and growth of mesoscale gravel bed forms in deep flows were made in the North Fork Toutle River, Washington. Sonar observations of the gravel streambed at a stationary point were recorded during two storm flows in December 1989 and January 1990 with concurrent bed load sampling and continuous velocity measurements. Mean diameter of bed load was about 3 cm, flow depths were 1.4–2.4 m, and bed shear stresses were 2–5 times the critical stress of mean bed load diameter, as computed from the depth-slope product. These records document the hydrodynamic conditions under which dunelike coarse gravel bed forms were observed. Coarse gravel dunes (height, 20 cm; length, 6–15 m) evolved more than 24 hours after peak stage, primarily by accretion, as inferred from bed form changes revealed in dual sonar records. Dune heights increased to 40 cm as mean trough elevation rose about 50 cm over several hours. Smaller dunes (wavelength, 1–3 m), transitional from bed load sheets, migrated on the backs of the large dunes. The superposed dunes finally became indistinguishable from the large dunes, which diminished in height by increasing the mean level of troughs. Gravel deposition occurred at the observation point in conjunction with migration of gravel dunes. The direct comparison of known bed form regimes and gravel bar facies provides alternative interpretations of gravelly deposits.