The downstream gradation of particle sizes in the Squamish river, British Columbia

Gary J. Brierley*, Edward J. Hickin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


The exponential downstream decline in particle size predicted by Sternberg (1875) is examined within a highly active alpine fluvial environment, the gravel‐bed Squamish River in southwestern British Columbia. Transect survey procedures for sampling within the coarse alluvial gravels are described in detail. Downstream trends for various particle size statistics, plotted with distance from a major sediment source, are considered according to two scenarios. Evaluation of overall trends indicates that the downstream expression derived by Sternberg (1875) is not the most appropriate; rather, curves are better described by power functions. This reflects a very rapid decline in particle size immediately downstream of the major sediment source. Secondly, evaluation of downstream trends in relation to channel planform determines that exponential functions with different coefficients describe adequately relations within individual planform reaches. There is insufficient evidence to suggest which of these two scenarios may be appropriate. Several lines of evidence suggest that the trends found are more the result of selective sediment transport phenomena than of abrasion, a condition attributed to channel competence within a system dominated by sediment‐supply conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-606
Number of pages10
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes


  • Gravel‐bed river
  • Particle size
  • Sediment sorting
  • Sternberg's Law


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