Formation and maintenance of single-thread tie channels entering floodplain lakes: Observations from three diverse river systems

J. C. Rowland, W. E. Dietrich, G. Day, G. Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Tie channels connect rivers to floodplain lakes on many lowland rivers and thereby play a central role in floodplain sedimentology and ecology; yet they are generally unrecognized and little studied. Here we report the results of field studies focused on tie channel origin and morphodynamics in the following three contrasting systems: the Middle Fly River (Papua New Guinea), the Lower Mississippi River, and Birch. Creek in Alaska. Across these river systems, tie channels vary by an order of magnitude in size but exhibit the same characteristic morphology and appear to develop and evolve by a similar set of processes. In all three systems, the channels are characterized by a narrow, leveed, single-thread morphology with maximum width approximately one tenth the width of the mainstem river. The channels typically have a V-shaped cross section, unlike most fluvial channels. These channels develop as lakes become isolated from the river by sedimentation. Narrowing of the connection between river and lake causes a sedimentladen jet to develop. Levees develop along the margins of the jet leading to channel emergence and eventual levee aggradation to the height of the mainstem levees. Bidirectional flow in these channels is common. Outflows from the lake scour sediment and prevent channel blockage. We propose that channel geometry and size are then controlled by a dynamic balance between channel narrowing by suspended sediment deposition and incision and widening by mass failure of banks during outflows. Tie channels are laterally stable and may convey flow for hundreds to a few thousand of years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberF02013
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Volume114
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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