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Encyclopedia > Braided stream

A braided river channel consists of a network of small channels separated by small islands called braid bars.

The channels and braid bars are usually highly mobile, with the river layout often changing significantly during flood events. Channels move sideways via differential velocity: On the outside of a curve, deeper, swift water picks up sediment (usually gravel or larger stones), which is re-deposited in slow-moving water on the inside of a bend.

The braided channels may flow within an area defined by relatively stable banks or may occupy an entire valley floor. The Rakaia River in Canterbury, New Zealand has cut a channel 100 metres deep into the surrounding plains.

The dynamic nature and uneven terrain of braided rivers present particular challenges to bridge construction.

Conditions which promote braided channel formation are:

  • an abundant supply of sediment
  • rapid and frequent variations in water discharge
  • erodable banks

The most famous example of a large braided stream in the United States is the Platte River in central and western Nebraska. The sediment of the arid Great Plains is augmented by the presence of the nearby Sand Hills region north of the river.

Extensive braided river systems are found in only a few regions world-wide:

All the above regions contain young, eroding mountains.

  Results from FactBites:
BMP's for Braided Stream Systems (1845 words)
Braided stream channels or runs should be identified before harvesting in order to prescribe adequate streamside protection.
Stream channels and lakes should be kept free of logging debris as harvesting operations progress.
Braided stream systems may be inundated for long periods, and additional time is often necessary to complete the harvest.
River Systems and Causes of Flooding (2716 words)
Streams receive most of their water input from precipitation, and the amount of precipitation falling in any given drainage basin varies from day to day, year to year, and century to century.
Streams carry most of the water that goes from the land to the sea, and thus are an important part of the water cycle.
Because meandering streams are continually eroding on the outer meander bends and depositing sediment along the inner meander bends, meandering stream channels tend to migrate back and forth across their flood plain.
  More results at FactBites »



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