Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Activities > Determining the 100-year floodplain of the Chippewa River

Determining the 100-year floodplain of the Chippewa River

Bianca Pedersen
University of Wisconsin -Eau Claire
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  1. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

    This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

    • Scientific Accuracy
    • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
    • Pedagogic Effectiveness
    • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
    • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

    For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

  2. This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: May 16, 2008


In this in-class activity recurrence intervals are calculated for ten flooding events on the Chippewa River near Eau Claire Wisconsin. The students use 1:24000 topographic maps to determine the extent of the 100-year flood plain near Eau Claire and on campus.

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This activity has been developed for an introductory level geology course (Environmental Geology) comprised mostly of non-majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

For this lab students must understand contour lines and have been introduced to topographic maps. In addition the students should be familiar with basic river morphology.

How the activity is situated in the course

This lab would follow a lab in which the students learn about topographic maps and after streams and flooding has been covered in lectures.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The goals of this activity are to:
  • get the students more familiar with using topographic maps
  • give the students a feeling for what a floodplain is and how it evolves
  • show the effect of high discharge in a river on the surrounding area

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

In this activity the students calculate recurrence intervals for some historical crests on the Chippewa River and identify the 100-year flood plain in downtown Eau Claire. The students also evaluate the effect of a 20ft high stage event along the whole Chippewa River with the goal of showing how topography influences the size of the area affected by flooding events. The students also evaluate the effectiveness of a flood gate system located on campus.

Determining whether students have met the goals

No grading is done for this activity. Assessment of students' understanding of the material covered is checked at the end of the lab by having each lab group present their results to the teacher. Skills will be tested on subsequent lectre exams

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

The Eau Claire East and Eau Claire West 1:24000 topographic maps by the USGS is used in this exercise

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