Christopher Churches

Geomorphic Characterization of the Grand River near Grand Rapids: Baseline Data Collection and Predicted Dam Removal Effects

Five low head dams located on the Grand River in Grand Rapids, MI are under consideration for removal. These dams, referred to as anthropomorphic hydraulic controls, were constructed in the late 1800’s. This study provides an explanation of the geomorphic history of the Grand River, with an emphasis placed on the portion near Grand Rapids upstream to Lowell, MI.  A natural hydraulic control was identified on aerial photos and confirmed using bathymetric mapping. Water well log analysis of over 20,000 wells revealed several areas of exposed or shallow bedrock beneath the river bed, a bedrock channel of the ancestral Grand River, and truncated bedrock ridges near the mouth of the Grand River.  A longitudinal profile of the Grand River shows that the modern gradient varies from 0.00012 (0.63 ft/mi) to 0.00045 (2.376 ft/mi).  The several knickpoints on the profile may be 1) bedrock / shallow bedrock; 2) glacial till eroded by the river; or 3) boulder / sand and gravel from outburst floods.

Faculty Mentor: Peter Wampler, Geology

Page last modified August 2, 2013