The South Fork Eel River, northern California (United States), displays a prominent knickzone in its longitudinal profile that may represent a perturbation that is propagating upstream. We investigated two tributary basins (Standley and Bear Pen Creeks) located downstream from this major trunk-stream knickzone to document the presence of knickzones within tributary and subtributary streams and to explore their correlation to the South Fork Eel River knickzone. We utilized LIDAR (light detection and ranging) derived digital elevation models to identify more than 100 major knickpoints and knickzones along 103 streams within these 2 tributary basins. Major knickpoints are located at clear inflection points separating two reaches of concave-upward stream profiles. These knickpoints can be delineated at breaks in the regression relation of channel slope versus drainage area for these two tributaries. Using the slope-area relation, we recreate paleolongitudinal profiles to represent the pre-incision profile of main stem tributary channels, as well as the pre-incision elevations of subtributary outlets. Knickpoint distribution throughout the two basins indicates that the channels are responding to pulses of incision initiated through base-level fall along the South Fork Eel River. However, most of the major knickpoints identified do not correlate with the current, prominent knickzone along the South Fork Eel River. Rather, knickpoint distribution within the study area indicates that there have been multiple instances of base-level fall along the South Fork Eel River, each triggered by the upstream passage of knickzones that are no longer preserved in the South Fork Eel River profile.
- Received 1 April 2011.
- Revision received 9 November 2011.
- Accepted 12 November 2011.
- © Geological Society of America