First Advisor

Larry W. Price

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geography




Earthflows -- Oregon -- Mount Hood National Forest, Soil mechanics -- Oregon -- Mount Hood National Forest, Soil absorption and adsorption -- Oregon -- Mount Hood National Forest



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, viii, 130 p.)


Soils from two active earthflows, two earthflow deposits, and three non-earthflow landforms are examined to determine if a connection exists between near-surface soil properties and rates of earthflow movement. The study area is located in the Clackamas Ranger District of the Mt. Hood National Forest in the northern Oregon Cascades. Its geology consists of clay-bearing volcaniclastic formations overlain by unaltered flows of andesite and basalt, a combination that contributed to large-scale landsliding during the late Pleistocene. Deposits from these landslides now cover much of the valley floor, and it is from these deposits that earthflows tend to mobilize. The main hypothesis is that near-surface soil properties reflect earthflow movement and may be used to distinguish between active and inactive earthflows. The results support this hypothesis and indicate that soils in each of the three categories show clear differences in terms of their physical properties. The mean field moisture content of active earthflows is 56 percent, while that of earthflow deposits is 46 percent and that of non-earthflow landforms is 36 percent. All samples from active earthflows exhibit plasticity, whereas 90 percent of samples from earthflow deposits and only 25 percent of samples from nonearthflow landforms exhibit plasticity. The mean liquid limit of active earthflows is 78 percent, compared to 60 percent for earthflow deposits and 46 percent for non-earthflow landforms. The mean plasticity index of active earthflows is 41 percent, compared to only 13 percent for earthflow deposits and non-earthflow landforms. These differences are largely attributed to clay content and clay type. The mean clay content of active earthflows is 46 percent, compared to 24 percent for earthflow deposits and only 5 percent for nonearthflow landforms. In contrast, the mean sand content of active earthflows is 20 percent, while earthflow deposits contain 40 percent and non-earthflow landforms 50 percent. This difference in particle sizes is reflected in friction angle. Active earthflows have a mean friction angle of 15 degrees, compared to 24 degrees for earthflow deposits and 31 degrees for non-earthflow landforms. These results indicate that soil properties can be used to draw distinctions between active and inactive earthflows. However, soil properties are much less effective at distinguishing between active earthflows that move at different rates. For example, Junction earthflow, which moves only a few centimeters per year, is composed of soils that indicate it to be less stable than the Collowash earthflow, which moves approximately 2 meters per year. The reason for this discrepancy is that, in addition to soil properties, the rate of earthflow movement depends on the complimentary effects of hydrology, slope angle, toe erosion, and boundary roughness. Many ancient landslide deposits in the Mt. Hood National Forest are poised for action and may mobilize upon the slightest provocation. Since this is not seen as a "desired future condition" there is a need to differentiate between those deposits with a potential for reactivation and those likely to remain dormant. Examining the physical properties of soils appears to be one way to do this, and the information collected is valuable to land managers and earth scientists alike.


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