Photo of Boat on Upper Deschutes River

Meander Belt on the Upper Deschutes River

What do river meanders and the results of a train wreck have in common? Both reflect the dissipation of excess energy. When a moving train impacts a large object on the tracks, the extra kinetic energy of the railcars causes them to scatter in a serpentine pattern behind the engine. When a river has more energy than it can dissipate through turbulence and sediment transport, it will carve meanders in its floodplain to reduce its gradient and stream power. A classic example of this river dynamic is found in a 6-mile meander belt on the Upper Deschutes River, between LaPine State Park and the Big River Campground.
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Panoramic Photo of Paulina Falls

Ancient, Cataclysmic Flood on Paulina Creek

Nearly all the clues needed to solve the mystery were right in plain sight — the huge gravel bars, the dry abandoned waterfalls, the actively-migrating falls just below Paulina Lake today, plus the wave-cut terraces marooned several feet above the lake’s current water level. But it wasn’t until two Forest Service researchers, Lawrence Chitwood and Robert Jensen, put all of these clues together back in the mid-1990s that the full story of Paulina Creek’s ancient flood became clear to everyone.
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