Mid-channel bar growth and its relationship to local flow strength and direction

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Anabranches of braided rivers typically migrate and avulse across the floodplain to produce new channel junctions, scour and subsequent mid-channel bar growth immediately downstream. Few quantitative studies have been made of this bar development process and the link to change in channel geometry and local flow strength and direction. This paper provides data on the spatial and temporal pattern of surface velocity as mid-channel bar growth is initiated downstream of a fixed junction scour in a generic scale flume model. The sequence of channel changes is: (i) development of a confluence scour with flow convergence and maximum velocity in the channel centre; (ii) exceedance of the local transport capacity and initial stalling of coarse sediment in the channel thalweg downstream of the scour; (iii) bar growth through entrapment of all sizes of bedload; (iv) change from velocity maximum to minimum and flow convergence to divergence when the bar height is approximately 55 per cent of the thalweg depth; (v) broadening of the bartop platform, a drop in local competence and bankward migration of the two distributaries whose cross-section and velocity remains approximately constant. These flume data and interpretations are compared to descriptions in the literature of the braiding process with particular reference to the flume work of Leopold and Wolman (1957) and Ashmore (1991, 1993). A new model for mid-channel bar growth is presented which helps explain the long-term development of the confluence–diffluence unit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-123
Number of pages21
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1996


  • braided rivers
  • bar growth
  • confluence dynamics
  • velocity distribution
  • flume modelling


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