Geomorphology of a coastal sand-bed river : Lower Trinity River, Texas

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2012-12

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Abstract

The lower Trinity River in Texas flows 180 river kilometers from Livingston Dam to Trinity Bay. Like many sandy coastal rivers the lower Trinity is geomorphically active. Within this 180-km reach, the river exhibits three styles of channel geometry and kinematic behavior that have been characterized using aerial photographs spanning the past 60 years, as well as bathymetric surveys and field work completed over the past 5 years. The three channel zones are connected to spatial change in properties of the sediment transport field. The upstream zone is defined by channel-bed incision, relatively small and coarse-grained bars, and relatively low rates of lateral channel migration. These properties of the upstream zone are connected to the discharge of water with effectively no bed-material load from Livingston Dam. Eventually the channel flow scours enough sediment from the channel bed and sidewalls to reestablish the predicted transport capacity for sand in the river, marking the transition to the central zone. This zone is defined by the largest bars and channel bends with the highest rates of lateral migration that persist downstream until the transport of sand and gravel is influenced by the backwater hydraulics connected with the shoreline at Trinity Bay. This downstream river zone is characterized by very small point bars, the deepest flows at most discharges, and lower rates of channel migration. Studying the connections and transitions between these three river zones leads to a more complete understanding of the coevolution of river geometry and profile, channel kinematics, and downstream change in sediment transport in the coastal zone.

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