van Dijk, W.M., W.I. van de Lageweg, and M.G. Kleinhans, 2012: “Experimental meandering river with chute cutoffs.” Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 117, paper no. F03023, doi: 10.1029/2011JF002314.
Braided rivers are relatively simple to produce in the laboratory, whereas dynamic meandering rivers have not been sustained beyond initial bend formation. Meandering is theoretically explained by bend instability growing from planimetric perturbation, which convects downstream. In this study, we experimentally tested the importance of upstream perturbation and chute cutoff development in the evolution and dynamics of a meandering channel pattern. The initial straight channel had a transversely moving upstream inlet point and silt-sized silica flour was added to the sediment feed to allow floodplain formation. We obtained a dynamic meandering river with scroll bars. Bend growth was alternated by chute cutoffs that formed across the point bars. Meandering was maintained as one channel was disconnected by a plug bar. The curvature at the chute bifurcation transported sediment and build a new floodplain, while the other channel widens. At the end of the experiment, the fluvial plain exhibited a meandering channel, point bars, chutes and abandoned and partially filled channels with a slightly cohesive floodplain surface similar to natural meandering gravel bed rivers. We conclude that the necessary and sufficient conditions for dynamic meandering gravel bed river are a sustained dynamic upstream perturbation and floodplain formation.