Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Watershed Sciences


John C. Schmidt


Channel morphology in alluvial rivers results from the interactions among the flow of water and sediment, the grain size distribution of the material in transport, and the characteristics of the materials making up the channel boundary. Many modern river management problems depend upon the ability to predict channel behavior in response to changes in the delivery of sediment. Sediment budgets provide a framework for explicitly evaluating the links between sediment delivery to and export from a river, and changes in storage. In the work presented here I have developed sediment budgets at three different spatial and temporal scales in an effort to gain insight to channel response to a change in sediment supply. In Chapter 2, I present a bed load budget for the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park (GTNP), Wyoming. The analysis was designed to evaluate the effects of 50 years of flow regulation on net sediment flux and, thus, sediment storage for the Snake River below Jackson Lake Dam. In Chapter 3 I present a sediment mass balance constructed for a single flood on an aggrading 4-km reach of the middle Provo River, Utah. Sediment accumulation in the Provo River had driven significant point bar growth, and the sediment budget was designed to explicitly link patterns in sediment flux with morphologic change. In Chapter 4, I present the results from a physical experiment designed to further evaluate the effect of changing sediment supply on point bar morphology in a single meander bend. The experiment was conducted in a field-scale flume, the Outdoor StreamLab (OSL), at the University of Minnesota. In each of the cases I present here, the channel was subject to sediment accumulation due to either an increase in sediment supply (Provo River and OSL) or a decrease in transport capacity (Snake River). The analyses provide insight into processes governing channel response to changes in sediment supply and highlight the inherent challenges and uncertainties associated with sediment budgets, regardless of the scale of the analysis.