Channel form and processes in bedrock and alluvial reaches of the Raritan River, New Jersey

Gail Ashley, William H. Renwick, Gary H. Haag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Fluvial geomorphologists have generally considered alluvial and bedrock channels to be fundamentally different in character, alluvial channels being shaped by sediment-transport processes and bedrock channels being shaped by structural and lithologic controls. This study examines a 12-km bedrock-floored reach of the Raritan River that separates two gravel-bed reaches, above and below. The bedrock channel has a patchy veneer of sandy gravel that covers the bed in areas of low slope but elsewhere consists of lateral bars and discrete, two-dimensional gravel bed forms perched on bedrock. Mean B-axes of the 25 largest clasts on the crests of these bed forms range from 10.4 to 13.8 cm. Shear stresses estimated from measured velocity profiles and depth-slope calculations indicate that most clasts on the bed forms are entrained by the bankfull discharge (290 m/s) which is equaled or exceeded about 1%of the time. The thalweg of the 80-m-wide channel is incised about 0.5 to 0.7 m, and it meanders with a wavelength of about 750 m, or approximately 10 times channel width. This thalweg meander wavelength is consistent with reference to drainage area when compared to channel meander wavelengths in other locations within the basin and is similar to that in other rivers of comparable dimensions and discharge. The bedrock-alluvial reach is similar to alluvial channels with reference to meander geometry and sediment distribution. It occupies an intermediate position on a continuum of channels-of varying sediment supply in relation to transport capacity, ranging from alluvial channels to those completely formed in bedrock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436-439
Number of pages4
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology

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