Journal of Geophysical Research
Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
The incision and aggradation of the Colorado River in eastern Grand Canyon through middle to late Quaternary time can be traced in detail using well-exposed fill terraces dated by a combination of optically stimulated luminescence, uranium series, and cosmogenic nuclide dating. This fluvial history provides the best bedrock incision rate for this important landscape and highlights the complications and advantages of fill terrace records for understanding river long-profile evolution and incision. The use of fill terraces, as distinct from strath terraces, for calculating incision rates is complicated by the cyclic alluviation and incision they record. In the example of the Grand Canyon this has led to various rates being reported by different workers and rates that tend to be overestimates in shorter records. We illustrate that a meaningful long-term bedrock incision rate of 140 m/m.y. can be extracted from the Grand Canyon record by linking episodes when the Colorado River is floored on bedrock. Variable incision rates reported in the greater region may be, to some degree, due to inconsistent calculations. Our data also highlight that the Colorado River has been a mixed alluvial-bedrock river through both time and space and has been a bedrock river for less than half of its Pleistocene history. This strong temporal variation, combined with the varying bedrock the river encounters on its path, heightens the challenge of understanding the tectonic, climatic, and drainage integration controls on the form and evolution of the Colorado River’s long profile.
Pederson, J. L., M. D. Anders, T. M. Rittenour, W. D. Sharp, J. C. Gosse, and K. E. Karlstrom (2006), Using fill terraces to understand incision rates and evolution of the Colorado River in eastern Grand Canyon, Arizona, J. Geophys. Res., 111, F02003, doi:10.1029/2004JF000201.