First Advisor

Scott F. Burns

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geology






Turbidity -- Oregon -- Santiam River Watershed, Landslides -- Oregon -- Santiam River Watershed, Suspended sediments -- Environmental aspects -- Oregon -- Santiam River Watershed



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 262 p.) : ill. (some col.), maps (some col.)


The Little North Santiam River Basin is a 111-square mile watershed located in the Cascade Range of western Oregon. The Little North Santiam River is a major tributary to the North Santiam River, which is the primary source of drinking water for Salem, Oregon and surrounding communities. Consequently, water quality conditions in the Little North Santiam River, such as high turbidity, affect treatment and delivery of the drinking water. Between 2001 and 2008, suspended-sediment loads from the Little North Santiam River accounted for 69% of the total suspended-sediment load that passed the treatment plant. Recent studies suggest that much of this sediment originates from landslide activity in the basin. Using airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)-derived imagery, 401 landslides were mapped in the Little North Santiam River Basin. Landslide types vary by location, with deep-seated earth flows and earth slumps common in the lower half of the basin and channelized debris flows prominent in the upper basin. Over 37% of the lower basin shows evidence of landslide activity compared to just 4% of the upper basin. Instream turbidity monitoring and suspended-sediment load estimates during the winter of 2009-2010 demonstrate a similar distribution of sediment transport in the basin. During a 3-month study period, from December 2009 through February 2010, the lower basin supplied 2,990 tons, or 91% of the suspended-sediment load to the Little North Santiam River, whereas the upper basin supplied only 310 tons of sediment. One small 23-acre earth flow in the lower basin, the Evans Creek Landslide, supplied 28% of the total suspended-sediment load, even though it only comprises 0.0004% of the basin. The Evans Creek Landslide is an active earth flow that has been moving episodically since at least 1945, with surges occurring between 1945 and 1955, 1970 and 1977, in February 1996, and in January 2004. Recent erosion of the landslide toe by Evans Creek continues to destabilize the slope, supplying much of the sediment measured in the Little North Santiam River. Over the last 64 years, the average landslide movement rate has been between 5 and 12 feet per year.


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Portland State University. Dept. of Geology

Persistent Identifier