Field measurements of three-dimensional hydraulics in a step-pool channel

Andrew C. Wilcox, Ellen E. Wohl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


We investigated the effects of morphologic position and discharge on flow structure in a steep (0.10 m/m) mountain channel by collecting three-dimensional measurements of time-averaged and turbulent velocity components with a SonTek FlowTracker Handheld ADV (acoustic Doppler velocimeter) on a 30-m reach of a step-pool channel in the Colorado Rockies. Velocity profiles were measured at morphologic positions characteristic of steep channels (above steps, step lips, base of steps, pools, cascades, runs), and at five different discharges. A marked three-dimensionality of flow structure was documented in East St. Louis Creek. Velocities in the streamwise component were the largest contributors to overall velocity vector magnitudes; cross-stream and vertical components contributed averages of 20% and 15%, respectively, to overall vector magnitudes. Turbulence intensities were especially multi-dimensional, however, with large contributions to turbulent kinetic energy from the vertical component of velocity. Analysis of variance indicated that discharge and morphologic position significantly affected mean streamwise velocities, with substantially higher velocities upstream from steps than in pools. Discharge and morphology effects on cross-stream and vertical velocity components, however, were not significant. Discharge and morphologic position also significantly affected turbulence intensities for all flow components, with the greatest turbulence intensities occurring in pools and at high discharges. These results illustrate the strong discharge-dependence of hydraulics in step-pool channels, where relative submergence of bedforms changes rapidly with discharge, and the substantial spatial variation in hydraulics created by step-pool sequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-231
Number of pages17
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jan 30 2007


  • Acoustic Doppler velocimeter
  • FlowTracker
  • Step-pool channel
  • Turbulence intensity
  • Velocity


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