Answer the following two questions: 1. Define the following terms: a. watershed b. floodplain c. cut bank d. point bar e. natural levee f. river gradient 2. Watch the video posted in Module 10 “Why do Rivers Curve?” ( Explain how even a small stream can create a wide floodplain?

Assignment: Three Rivers

Objective: This assignment is designed to help you understand river systems as an agent of change by
comparing three rivers in the United States.
Materials: Google Earth, internet connection, textbook
Instructions: First, read about rivers in your textbook, being sure to understand the terms listed below
and highlighted in the chapter in bold font. Then, download and open Google Earth, a free application
from Google, to view and analyze three rivers: Cuyahoga, Ohio and Yellowstone. Download Google
Earth for your own computer at: Google Earth is already installed on
all campus computers if you are on the Stark campus but I’m not sure for Kent campus. Third, if you are
not familiar with Google Earth software, you’ll need to practice with it for a bit. I have posted a short
tutorial video on using Google Earth in Blackboard in Module 10. Although most of what you’ll do in
this exercise can also be done using satellite images from or other map software,
using Google Earth may be easier. Once you are set up with Google Earth and feel you know how to
use it, begin the exercise below.
Answer the following two questions:
1. Define the following terms:
a. watershed
b. floodplain
c. cut bank
d. point bar
e. natural levee
f. river gradient

2. Watch the video posted in Module 10 “Why do Rivers Curve?” (
Explain how even a small stream can create a wide floodplain?

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Now you will observe characteristics of three rivers. For each river you will describe, using Google
Earth and its tools, the following conditions:
❏ Location (latitude and longitude)
❏ Image (save a screenshot or Google Earth “save as” image)
❏ Eye Altitude used when making measurements
❏ Sinuosity
❏ River gradient
❏ Discharge (indirectly as river width)
❏ Sediment Load (turbidity, presence of sandy deposits, etc)
❏ Floodplain (width)
❏ Vegetation
❏ Climate
❏ Environmental Setting (e.g., urban, rural, etc)
Fill in the table below to summarize your results. Complete all calculations at the same eye altitude
shown in the table below. Steps on how to complete each calculation are shown below the table.

Cuyahoga Ohio Yellowstone

Location (copy and
paste the coordinates
into Google Earth for
easier navigation)

41°08'07.91" N
81°32'49.97" W

39°05'35.79" N
84°30'40.13" W

44°53'03.59" N
110°22'19.15" W

Eye Altitude, ft at least 5,000 at least 50,000 at least 5,000
River Gradient, ft/mi
Depth, ft 3 14 4
Width, ft
Area (d x w), ft 2
Velocity, ft/sec 6.6 52.8 21
Discharge (velocity x
area), cubic ft / sec
Sediment Load, via
turbidity (cloudiness)

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Floodplain width, ft
Insert your images in the table below (change the size of the image to be 2 inches by 2 inches):
Cuyahoga Ohio Yellowstone

River Gradient
Calculate the river’s gradient, or slope. You will do this using the ruler tool found in the toolbar at the
top of the screen or in the menu Tools > Ruler. See the ruler icon in the image below circled in gold.
Follow the numbered list below:

1. Zoom to an eye altitude (shown in the bottom-right corner) of 50,000 ft.
2. Click on the Ruler icon.
3. Choose Path as the type of line to draw.
4. Choose feet as the unit of measurement.
5. Begin measuring the length of the river along its path (NOT a straight line distance) by clicking
every so often to match the sinuosity of the river.
6. Click on Save to save the line drawn.
7. To view the length of your measured path and its gradient, go to the Edit menu and choose
Show Elevation Profile.
8. The length is shown on the horizontal axis.
9. The elevation is shown on the vertical axis.
10. Calculate the gradient by dividing the vertical elevation change by the distance. Your answers
should be in ft/miles.
11. Insert a screen shot of your river and the path chosen by going to the File menu and choosing
Save > Save Image As. Once you have saved your file, insert it as a picture by going to the Insert
menu within your word processor and choosing object, picture, etc., to insert your saved image
in the table above. If you submit by hand, print a copy of each image.

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Count how many times your river changed direction or made a bend within your path drawn above.
Then, divide this count by the distance used to calculate gradient (e.g., 8 bends per 1 mile).
Measure the width of the river in 3 places along your path and calculate the average. Then, multiply
the average width by the depth shown on the table. This will be your cross-sectional area in ft 2 . Now
multiply the area by the velocity to get discharge in cubic ft per second (ft 3 / sec).
Sediment Load
Make observations about its color, presence of sandy deposits, presence of point bars, turbidity, etc.
Describe the climate of this region. Refer to climate maps or other resources that explain the type of
climate of the regions where these rivers are located.
Try to determine the percentage of land surrounding your river that is covered by vegetation.
Remember to keep your eye altitude at the minimum distance shown in the table.
Observe the region around the rivers. Categorize the region by observing the amount of developed
land (homes, roads, cities, etc), farmland, or undeveloped natural land.

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