Fluvial Geomorphology

By Cole, Alex | Sunday Gazette-Mail, September 3, 2017 | Go to article overview

Fluvial Geomorphology


Cole, Alex, Sunday Gazette-Mail


I'm willing to bet, if you are in West Virginia and you are reading this paper, you're within a stone's throw of a creek or river. I would argue the streams define this state even more than the mountains.

Sure the mountains appeared, big and tall, millions of years ago, but it's the water that has been cutting and carving them into shape ever since.

The hoity-toity called us river rats in the county seat. I grew up in Fraziers Bottom running the creeks and backwaters of the lower Kanawha Valley.

As an adult, I'd give up a day's pay to walk a stream. The sweeping curves, the cut banks, the waterfalls and shallow riffles - nothing is more dynamic or entertaining as an Appalachian stream. You never know what's around the next corner.

I never thought it would come in handy. Then I took a class called Fluvial Geomorphology. The best thing about going to college is being able to spout the big words in bar conversations, so you can sound impressive. Just saying "fluvial geomorphology makes me feel smarter, but it's not complicated. It's a class in which even a river rat can get an A.

"Fluvial simply means running water, and "geomorphology is the study of changing land. So you can see why I liked it.

For better or worse, our waterways dictate how we use the land. With all the flooding in the last few years, this should not come as a surprise to anyone. But after some of these flood events, I witnessed land-use issues that will only make things worse in the future - primarily straightening creeks, clearing their banks and cleaning out streams.

Clearing and channeling streams is not only bad for ecology. It also makes the potential for the flash flooding even worse in the future, especially for your neighbors downstream.

When you take the curves and shallows out of a stream, you are effectively creating a shoot for the water that will only make it flood faster and higher downstream. Think of your hollow as one giant funnel pointing at your neighbors.

Do you want that water to flow all at once, unimpeded? …

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