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Alluvial fans of post-glacial environments within British Columbia Ryder, June Margaret

Abstract

Alluvial fan construction within British Columbia was dependant upon temporary conditions resulting from deglaciation; there is no significant fan aggradation at present. Five study areas were selected from the semi-arid sections of the Fraser, Thompson, Bonaparte, South Thompson and Similkameen valleys. The Tertiary and Quaternary geo-morphic histories of these areas are similar in many respects--most significantly, one or more phases of Pleistocene glaciation were followed by fluvial and lacustrine aggradation--but vary regarding the amount of subsequent downcutting by major rivers. This ranges from several hundred feet in the Fraser and Thompson valleys to a few feet or none in the Similkameen and Bonaparte valleys. Stratigraphic evidence from the Fraser Valley indicates that fan building commenced soon after the valley floor became ice-free, probably whilst glacial conditions persisted in tributary basins. It continued during aggradation by major rivers and for sometime afterwards. In the Thompson and South Thompson valleys fans were most recently built upon degradational river terraces. The occurrence of Mazama volcanic ash within fans indicates that construction continued until after 6,600 years B.P. Fans were built during a phase of landscape readjustment from predominantly glacial to predominantly fluvial conditions. They resulted from the secondary deposition of glacial drift and locally weathered material by streams and mudflows. Fan composition was dependant upon the nature of the available material and upon the character of the parent basin. For example, the widespread occurrence of glacio-lacustrine silt in the Thompson Valley gave rise to fans composed of silty mudflow gravels. Generally, small, steep basins produced mudflows whereas larger basins had more constantly flowing streams which deposited fluvial gravels. Fan aggradation declined as the drift supply was exhausted; deposition of material derived by current weathering was insufficient to maintain the growth of the fans. After deposition ceased many fans were dissected as a result of local base-level lowering controlled by degradation of major rivers and/or fan-head trenching initiated as the debris supply declined. Fan-head trenching is best developed in the South Thompson Valley; base-level dissection predominates in the Fraser and Thompson Valleys. Where fan building persisted during degradation, multilevel fans were constructed. Statistical correlations among morphometric parameters describing fans and related basins indicate that basin characteristics exerted an influence upon fan geometry through the nature of the fan building stream. There relationships vary regionally, possibly reflecting lithologic, climatic and geomorphic contrasts. British Columbia fans are steeper and display a greater variation of morphometric relationships than fans of the arid American Southwest. Fans resulting from deglaciation are distinguished by use of the prefix "para-glacial".

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