Avalanches in the Rio Grande Gorge, NM – August 2014


Sometime last August, a monsoonal deluge fell on the slopes of the Rio Grande Gorge, in the vicinity of the Petaca Campground, in the Orilla Verde section (Rio Grande del Norte NM). The deluge brought  floods down onto the Campground, but, more interestingly, caused mud, rocks and boulders to avalanche down the slopes on the opposite side of the river. The avalanches started from the base of the rimrock, and continued down to where the angle of the slope lessened, close to the river. There, the rocks and boulders piled up, looking somewhat like the remains of a snow avalanche. The geological term for this phenomenon is debris flow, but my prior experience with and understanding of debris flows have them coming down stream channels. In this instance, the avalanches created new channels, which are now easily identified gullies, across from and a little upstream from the Campground. Never having seen the formation of such gullies before, I am impressed with how a “catastrophic” rain event can cause significant erosion and so rapidly change the landscape.

Mud, rock and boulder avalanche creates new gully on the slopes of the Rio Grande Gorge

Mud, rock and boulder avalanche creates new gully on the slopes of the Rio Grande Gorge

Mud, rocks and boulders pile up at the bottom end of the avalanche path

Mud, rocks and boulders pile up at the bottom end of the avalanche path

Mud, rock and boulder avalanche (left) creates new gully on the slopes of the Rio Grande Gorge. The upper end of the avalanche seen in the prior two photos is seen on the right

Mud, rock and boulder avalanche (left) creates an additional gully on the slopes of the Rio Grande Gorge. The upper end of the avalanche seen in the prior two photos is seen on the right

A third avalanche created this gully

A third avalanche created this gully

About believesteve

I am a photographer and have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-grand/id672492447?ls=1
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