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


John Schmidt


David Chandler


Gully erosion has been damaging archaeological sites in Grand Canyon during the last several decades, and there is a need to protect these features through mitigation, monitoring, and better geomorphic understanding. The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of erosion-control structures, determine the accuracy and utility of aerial photogrammetry for monitoring gullies, and understand the geomorphology of the erosion. We performed total-station surveys and other data collection during February and October, 2002, at nine study sites in eastern and western Grand Canyon.

Erosion-control structures are more prone to be damaged by flow when they are placed in reaches of very high local gradient. Treatments are generally successful in slowing erosion or causing deposition of sediment, but damaged erosion-control structures were shown to be less effective than intact structures, and actually increase local erosion in cases.

Aerial photogrammetry was performed on four eroding archaeological sites in western Grand Canyon in March and October 2002 in order to assess the accuracy and change-detection utility of this tool. Accuracy was assessed on several different levels by comparing photogrammetry data to ground-survey data, and mean absolute vertical error ranged from 6-10 cm.

Error of manual photogrammetry digital terrain models (DTMs) increased with topographic ruggedness and decreased with greater photogrammetric point density. Mean error reached a minimum of 5 cm for March and 6.5 cm for October when the ratio of point density to topographic ruggedness was ~40. Ground surveys and repeat photography indicated that two study gullies eroded or aggraded during the study period by 10-20 cm, but these changes were mostly undetected in the photogrammetry DTMs.

Repeat ground surveys showed that gullies erode most at knickpoints and in steep reaches, and that new knickpoints tend to form in relatively steep reaches of a given channel. An area-slope erosion threshold was identified for the study sites and applied in a GIS-based model at four sites to show areas that exceed the threshold and are sensitive to gully erosion. Overall results show an upcatchment control of gully erosion and suggest that baselevel changes due to Glen Canyon Dam operation are subordinate controls.



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