Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Joel L. Pederson


Joel L. Pederson


Brian D. Collins


John D. Rice


Tammy M. Rittenour


This thesis includes two different studies in an attempt to investigate and better understand the key characteristics of landscape evolution. In the first study, the rate of surface particle creep was investigated through the use of Terrestrial lidar at an archaeological site in Grand Canyon National Park. The second study developed ways to quantify metrics of the Colorado River drainage and reports the role of bedrock strength in the irregular profile of the trunk Colorado River drainage.

Archaeological sites along the Colorado River corridor in Grand Canyon National Park are eroding due to a variety of surficial processes. The nature of surface particle creep is difficult to quantify and managers of this sensitive landscape wish to know the rates of erosion in order to make timely decisions regarding preservation. In the first study, two scans of a single convex hillslope were collected over the span of 12 months through the use of a ground-based lidar instrument. The scans were used to track the movement of rock clasts. This study, with a relatively small data set, did not show the expected positive relations of creep rate to slope or clast size, but did not preclude the existence of these relations either.

The remarkably irregular long profile of the Colorado River has inspired several questions about the role of knickpoint recession, tectonics, and bedrock in the landscape evolution of Grand Canyon and the region. Bedrock resistance to erosion has a fundamental role in controlling topography and surface processes. In this second study, a data set of bedrock strength data was compiled and presented, providing relations of bedrock strength to hydraulicdriving forces of the trunk Colorado River drainage.

Results indicate that rock strength and topographic metrics are strongly correlated in the middle to lower reaches of the plateau drainage. In the upper reaches of the drainage, intact-rock strength values are ~25% higher without a matching increase in stream power. As more tensile strength samples are analyzed and appropriately scaled with respect to fracturing and shale content, we believe we will see a clearer and more consistent pattern in the upper reaches.




Publication made available electronically January 13, 2012.

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