A Stream Table Makes a Miniature Stream
A stream table shows, in miniature, how streams flow through
a watershed and how they behave when the water levels change.
||Bob Schulz, shown here in the red shirt, is the Ozark
Coordinator of the Missouri Stream Team program. He's going to demostrate
how a stream table makes a miniature stream.
|The stream table slopes from one end to the other,
like the land a stream flows through.
To create a miniature stream, water flows in at the higher end
and drains out the lower. In this picture the drain is at the bottom.
||A pump circulates the water at about 360 gallons per
hour. The flow can be increased or decreased to show how runoff changes
with more or less rain.
With the stream table, Bob can create low water, high water, or
even flood conditions.
|Bob starts the demonstration by outlining a stream
channel. Streams always want to flow in S-shaped paths, or meanders.
||Here, Bob has started the water flowing. The material
that the water flows through is specially made to behave the way a
stream bank might. It is made of recycled plastic, and has grains
of three sizes. They act like fine silt, sand and rock might in a
|Here you can see grains of plastic moving downstream
(red arrow) along the outside
of the S-curve.
|Water flows faster around the outside of
a curve, and the faster the water goes, the more force it has. More
force means that it can lift and carry material from the outside of
a curve. But because it moves slower along the inside bank, it drops
the material it has been carrying. This is why erosion
can occur on the outside of stream banks and why gravel bars build
up on inside banks.
||Here's a picture taken from the inside of an actual
S-curve on Bryant Creek. Here we see how the current has been cutting
away at the bank on the outside of the curve, while gravel is building
up on the inside bank. The water is 4 or 5 feet deep next to the outside
bank. It is just a few inches deep on the near side by the gravel.
The faster moving water has cut a deeper channel on the outside curve.
|Here Bob has put "trees" into the bank along with some
rocks to show how trees can keep the bank from eroding.
||Look at the deep place by the rock where the water
is flowing in. By holding the bank on the outside of the S-curve in
place, the rock has forced the faster water there to go deep instead
of wide. The change has caused the water to carve out a deep hole.
|Trees do the same thing. Where you can
hold the bank in place, you make good fishing holes. How? Besides
making deeper holes, the shade the trees make also keeps the water
cooler. Cool water holds more oxygen and makes better fish habitat.
Keeping trees along the bank means keeping more bass, bluegill and
other fish in the stream for fishing!
|Here you see "trees" have maintained the banks. Where
there are no trees, you can see how the water has kept eating away
the outside bank.
||On the left (green arrow),
the stream below the trees has cut through its bank and is forming
a new channel.
Notice how a "gravel bar" (red arrow)
is forming in the slower-moving water.
|As water spreads out, it moves more slowly.
It has less force, and drops sediment on the bottom. The stream gets
shallower and shallower. The shallower the water, the less friendly
the stream becomes for fishing and boating. The loose sediment often
covers the food that fish eat and the eggs they lay, so less fish
and other animals are able to live there.