"The Great Cataract" Effects of Late Holocene Debris Flows on Lava Falls Rapid, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR WASHINGTON DC
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Lava Falls Rapid is the most formidable reach of whitewater on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon and is one of the most famous rapids in the world. Although the rapid was once thought to be controlled by the remnants of lava dams of Pleistocene age, Lava Falls was created and is maintained by frequent debris flows from Prospect Canyon. We used 232 historical photographs, of which 121 were replicated, and 14C and 3He dating methods to reconstruct the ages and, in some cases, the magnitudes of late Holocene debris flows. We quantified the interaction between Prospect Canyon debris flows and the Colorado River using image processing of the historical photographs. The highest and oldest debris-flow deposits on the debris fan yielded a 3He date of 2.9 0.6 ka 950 BC, which indicates predominately late Holocene aggradation of one of the largest debris fans in Grand Canyon. The deposit, which has a 25-m escarpment caused by river reworking, crossed the Colorado River and raised its base level by 30 m for an indeterminate, although probably short, period. We mapped depositional surfaces of 6 debris flows that occurred after 950 BC. The most recent prehistoric debris flow occurred no more than 500 years ago AD 1434.
- Fluid Mechanics