Morphology of step-pools in a wilderness headwater stream: The importance of standardizing geomorphic measurements


The morphology of step-pools and cascades reflect the geological and climatic factors affecting channels in mountain watersheds. This study uses longitudinal and cross-section surveys to describe a headwater stream in the Boston Mountains of the Ozarks Plateau region in Arkansas and develop morphological relationships for comparisons with other regions. In the Bowers Hollow Creek watershed (3.5 km2), located within the boundaries of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area, step height and wavelength relationships are generally similar to those reported from other regions. Step-pool reaches were widely distributed in a discontinuous manner throughout the watershed. Average values of the sampled reaches are: reach slopes, 0.105 m/m; width, 6.10 m; crest particle sizes, 440 mm; step heights, 0.87 m; and step wavelengths, 6.62 m. The mean step steepness for the watershed was 0.13, whereas the mean length of a reach step to height ratio was 9:1. A comparison of morphological definitions found that the values of step height and steepness can vary by > 30% according to how step parameters are defined. Step height is particularly sensitive; thus, comparison of step height-based relationships from published data requires great care.


Geography, Geology, and Planning

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Bedrock control, Boston Mountains, Headwater streams, Ozarks Plateau, Step-pool morphology

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