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Morphology and recent sediments of the lower anastomosing reaches of the Attawapiskat River

Sedimentary Geology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0037-0738(84)90019-8


Abstract The Attawapiskat River is one of the major low-gradient rivers which cross the flat wetlands of the Hudson Bay Lowland. It has a nival regime leading to strong, short-duration spring floods during which considerable amount of sediment is carried. For the remainder of the year only organic matter is transported in solution and suspension. The land is isostatically rebounding after the Pleistocene glaciations. The river downcuts through the softer Holocene estuarine basal clays and the Pleistocene tills, to the Paleozoic carbonate bedrock. The river develops an anastomosing pattern in the lower reaches and it acquires an irregular meandering character inland. It does not construct a significantly thick delta as the river-borne sediments are dispersed along the coasts by tides, longshore currents and ice rafting. The river is subjected to frequent ice jams in its lower reaches as warmer southern waters flow toward the still frozen mouth and sea. During the jams, secondary channels become active, floodings develop and sedimentation occurs on the levees. Ice scours and ice-rafted materials affect the river banks greatly. The principal sedimentary environments within the river consist of: (1) erosional shoals covered by boulder and pebble lags over till: (2) sorted coarse to medium-sized sands in junction bars downstream from islands; these sands frequently develop gas bubbles, and they contain characteristic fining-upward sequences from boulder pavements at the base, grading up into rippled sand with abundant organic matter, grading up into laminated silt and sand and organic matter; (3) secondary channels, which develop thin silty and clay drapes on eroded hard substratum and are filled eventually by thick peats; and (4) river banks which show well-developed regressive sequences from Pleistocene tills at the base, overlain by estuarine sparsely fossiliferous clays, capped by thin conglomeratic units with abundant reworked Macoma balthica shells, grading upward into upper tidal flat sand, irregularly laminated sand and silt of marshes, and regular interbedding of sand, silt and organic layers of the levees at the top.

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