Extreme sediment pulses generated by bend cutoffs along a large meandering river

Jessica A. Zinger, Bruce L. Rhoads, James L. Best

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In meandering rivers, bend cutoffs have long been recognized as an important mechanism of change in the path of the channel. Meander bend cutoffs can develop by the progressive migration of an elongated bend onto itself, which forms a neck cutoff, or by the erosion of a new channel across the neck of the bend, which is known as a chute cutoff. River cutoffs affect channel navigation2, and form meander scars and oxbow lakes in river floodplains 1,3,4, which are important habitats for riparian ecosystems 5. The importance of cutoff processes in meander dynamics is well established1,3,4,6-8, but the effects of cutoffs on overall sediment flux are poorly characterized. Here we use aerial imagery, global positioning system mapping and measurements of channel bathymetry to estimate the amount of sediment released by two chute cutoffs on the Wabash River in the Midwestern USA. We find that each event triggered the rapid delivery of sediment into the river, at rates that are one to five orders of magnitude larger than those produced by lateral migration of individual bends. We find that much of this material was deposited immediately downstream, at the confluence of the Wabash and Ohio rivers, which led to significant changes in channel morphology. This sedimentation ultimately impeded barge traffic and necessitated extensive dredging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)675-678
Number of pages4
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Extreme sediment pulses generated by bend cutoffs along a large meandering river'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this