Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Department name when degree awarded


Committee Chair(s)

Joel L. Pederson


Joel L. Pederson


Patrick Belmont


John C. Schmidt


The shape of a landscape is created by rivers, which erode the underlying bedrock and carve through mountains. The Snake River flows across the uplifting hotspot plume of the Yellowstone region, cuts through the Snake River Range, and ultimately enters the low-lying eastern Snake River Plain. Although there is a good understanding of the track of the Yellowstone hotspot over geologic time and shorter timescales, measurements over Quaternary timescales and an understanding of how uplift influences the rivers and landscape in the Yellowstone region are absent. We study the Snake River and its past deposits where it cuts through Alpine Canyon to observe its history over the past 100,000 years. Additionally, we constrain changes in the shape of the river channel where it is directly in contact with the underlying bedrock and where the riverbed is composed of river gravels to explore the controls on different river channel types. Our study of river deposits and drainage patterns along the Snake River indicates that the Snake River is incising relatively fast in relation to the interior western U.S. and that the river is adjusting to an actively deforming landscape. Additionally, our dataset provides field documentation of the magnitude of changes in channel types that may be valuable for parameterizing landscape evolution models or assisting in the restoration of river reaches that are in disequilibrium. This study will hopefully inspire future studies of tectonism and landscape evolution of the Yellowstone hotspot region.



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