Point bar and floodplain formation of the meandering Beatton River, northeastern British Columbia, Canada



This study examines the morphology, sedimentology and genesis of the point bars and floodplain of the Beatton River. The formation of point bars occurs in distinct stages. An initial point bar platform composed mainly of coarse sediment is formed adjacent to the convex bank of a migrating meander bend, and is the base on which develops a single scroll bar of fine traction and suspended load. With continued sedimentation, the scroll bar grows, eventually supporting vegetation and becoming a floodplain ridge. Scroll bars form with greatest size and frequency in rapidly migrating bends, and the shape of the meander bend appears to determine both the location of the initial bar deposit, and its direction of growth up or downstream. Approximately one-half of the floodplain sediment is derived from suspended load, and the initiation of a scroll bar appears to be due to excessive deposition of suspended load in a zone of flow separation over a point bar platform. The critical flow condition for the initiation of a scroll bar does not occur with the same recurrence interval on different shaped meander bends, however, the average recurrence interval within the study reach is approximately every 30 years. Sedimentation rates on point bars and on the floodplain indicate two relatively distinct stages of floodplain alluviation. The most rapid is for surfaces less than 50 years old, although sediment accumulation still persists on surfaces up to 250 years in age. Although frequently flooded, surfaces older than this accumulate very little sediment. Despite 2–3 m of overbank deposition, the amplitude of floodplain ridges is maintained by secondary currents which sweep sediment from the swales towards the ridge crests.