First Advisor

Adam Booth

Date of Publication

Winter 4-10-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geology






Geomorphology -- Oregon -- Bull Run River Watershed, Erosion -- Oregon -- Bull Run River Watershed



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 146 pages)


Quantifying spatial and temporal patterns of rapid channelized erosion, on human time scales, is critical to understanding its processes and their consequences. This investigation utilized field observations, repeat terrestrial laser scanning (TLS), and Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry (SfM) to document the size and retreat rates of a knickpoint, defined as a localized near-vertical reach of a fluvial channel, and its contribution to erosion, in an urbanizing landscape with a loess substrate. The Bull Mountain area, in Washington County, southwest of Portland, Oregon, is an ideal study area, offering a measurable knickpoint that translates the response of the rapid erosion throughout this transient system. Previous urbanization there has increased peak flows in streams, potentially initiating rapid channel incision and associated slope instability and sediment pollution, affecting real property and infrastructure. Despite the documented increase in discharge, upstream migration rates of the knickpoint, as well as the overall channel erosion rate, were unknown.

Sequential point cloud analysis quantified topographic changes in the landscape, in three dimensions, throughout time. The measured minimum knickpoint migration rates ranged from - 0.23 m/yr to - 2.45 m/yr with an average of - 1.52 m/yr and minimum of total volume eroded of 6.49 m3. The negative sign indicates the upstream direction. An extreme erosion event caused - 12.5 m of erosion in ~ 4.5 months. The interval including the extreme erosion event was recorded separately using traditional measurement techniques and resulted in an average retreat rate of - 4.31 m/yr. Analysis of patterns of erosion revealed four primary modes: exfoliation, large soil block failure, undercutting at the knickpoint base, and upper bank failure. Results from soil analyses indicate a layer of high bulk density (1.85 g/cm3) loess at the base of the upper channel may restrict the channelized incision for that reach and control the height and geometry of the knickpoint face, leading to a parallel mode of retreat. From the observed erosion rates a substrate specific average value of erodibility, or K value, of 0.01 m0.2 yr-1, was determined. As erosion forces the retreat of these knickpoints upstream, the effects of increasing urban runoff are felt throughout the watershed. The work presented here provides insight on the physical controls driving erosion and can serve as a prologue for future mitigation.


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