Update on the Potomac

We returned to Algonkian Park when the Potomac River was running bank-to-bank and about to spill onto its flood plain (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Looking upstream at an area where there was a cut bank on our previous visit.

The water level is several feet higher than on our last visit, and is expected to crest in two days. Unfortunately, I won’t be here to document that event, but I expect the water to be covering the picnic table placed on the active floodplain in Fig. 1. Low areas were inundated (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Water has encroached along a low area in the floodplain, possibly a relict stream bed or swale behind a sand bar.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of several large logs resting on the grassy floodplain, deposited by a previous high-water event. Nevertheless, a log can be seen lodged against the bank in Fig. 1, and many more were racing by at 3 feet/second, some more than twenty feet long.

Because of its dynamic height and flow strength, the Potomac is constantly switching from eroding its banks to depositing fine sediment and organic matter on its floodplain. Still, it is downcutting into previous river deposits and spring floods are nothing more than a temporary anomaly in the inexorable transport of sediment from the Blue Ridge Mountains to Chesapeake Bay.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: