Impact of debris dams on hyporheic interaction along a semi-arid stream

Laura K. Lautz, Donald I. Siegel, Robert L. Bauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Hyporheic exchange increases the potential for solute retention in streams by slowing downstream transport and increasing solute contact with the substrate. Hyporheic exchange may be a major mechanism to remove nutrients in semi-arid watersheds, where livestock have damaged stream riparian zones and contributed nutrients to stream channels. Debris dams, such as beaver dams and anthropogenic log dams, may increase hyporheic interactions by slowing stream water velocity, increasing flow complexity and diverting water to the subsurface. Here, we report the results of chloride tracer injection experiments done to evaluate hyporheic interaction along a 320 in reach of Red Canyon Creek, a second order stream in the semi-arid Wind River Range of Wyoming. The study site is part of a rangeland watershed managed by The Nature Conservancy of Wyoming, and used as a hydrologic field site by the University of Missouri Branson Geologic Field Station. The creek reach we investigated has debris dams and tight meanders that hypothetically should enhance hyporheic interaction. Breakthrough curves of chloride measured during the field experiment were modelled with OTIS-P, a one-dimensional, surface-water, solute-transport model from which we extracted the storage exchange rate α and cross-sectional area of the storage zone AS, for hyporheic exchange. Along gaining reaches of the stream reach, short-term hyporheic interactions associated with debris dams were comparable to those associated with severe meanders. In contrast, along the non-gaining reach, stream water was diverted to the subsurface by debris dams and captured by large-scale near-stream flow paths. Overall, hyporheic exchange rates along Red Canyon Creek during snowmelt recession equal or exceed exchange rates observed during baseflow at other streams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-196
Number of pages14
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Hyporheic zone
  • OTIS-P
  • Solute transport
  • Tracer test
  • Transient storage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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