Module 1: How Stratigraphy and Fluvial Processes Affect the Development of the Grand Canyon

Kyle Whalley, Geography, Northern Illinois University
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Initial Publication Date: December 14, 2015 | Reviewed: November 25, 2019

Summary

In this exercise, students examine the relationship between fluvial processes, stratigraphy, and landform evolution. Fundamental concepts of fluvial geomorphology are introduced in the context of the development of the Grand Canyon.

Key words: Grand Canyon, relief, fluvial landforms, gradient, slope, knickpoint, knickpoint migration, and cliff retreat

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Learning Goals

Content Goals

After successfully completing this exercise, students will be able to:
- Define relief, cliff retreat, knickpoint, and knickpoint migration
- Explain the roles of faulting, weathering, gravity, cliff retreat, and fluvial erosion in the development of the Grand Canyon
- Describe how the types of rocks that form the walls of the Grand Canyon influence the shape of the canyon

Higher Order Thinking Skills

After successfully completing this exercise, students will be able to:
- Analyze landscapes eroded by rivers to identify hard and soft rock layers on the basis of their outcrop patterns

Context for Use

Course Type

Undergraduate course in geography or geology

Prerequisite Skills

This exercise is an entry-level assignment and requires no particular skill set.

Where this activity fits in the course

This exercise is intended as an introduction to fundamental concepts in fluvial geomorpholoy, and as the first of several exercises focused on the evolution of the Grand Canyon. In particular, it is envisioned as a preliminary exercise to be completed prior to exploring the evolution of the Grand Canyon via WILSIM-GC, a computer simulation. However, it can also be used as a stand-alone assignment.

Description and Teaching Materials

In this exercise, students examine the relationship between fluvial processes, stratigraphy, and landform evolution. Fundamental concepts of fluvial geomorphology are introduced in the context of the development of the Grand Canyon.

Module 1: How Stratigraphy and Fluvial Processes Affect the Development of the Grand Canyon (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 2.5MB Nov11 15)

Assessment

Assess the students' understanding by reviewing their answers to the questions.