Alaska EPSCoR Data Portal
Sixty-five Years of Colville River dynamics and its impact on present river navigability near Nuiqsut, North Slope of Alaska
Nuiqsut is a native village located on the Colville River; its residents travel great distances on the river—from Umiat to the Ocean—for subsistence. Recently, residents have noticed accelerated changes in the river environment. Residents report bank erosion both in the village and throughout the river system, as well as reports of shallow water conditions and drying tributaries that interfere with travel, damage engines, create hazards, and raise concerns about fish migration. These conditions are increasingly becoming a concern for the community, prompting worries about subsistence lifestyles. River navigability issues have resulted in limited access to harvest sites upstream. Residents used to boat upstream up to Umiat (~90 miles away) and go on the Chandler River for moose hunting. A good fishing creek near town is no longer suitable for travel due to low water; erosion has led to rapid drainage and sedimentation (resident: Archie Ahkiviana). Thus, understanding the Colville River dynamics and its impact on summer river navigability is important for food security, safety, and mental health of Nuiqsut residents.
The research work reported here has tried to address the following key questions related to the issue of river navigability: Question 1: How have Colville River dynamics—including lateral channel shift, channel drying, and bank erosion—evolved in last 65 years? Question 2: How do shifting and drying channels, and bank erosion affect water depth, connectivity, and summer river navigability?
The specific tasks carried out were: 1. Mapping of the river channel and bank erosion using 1955, 1979, 2009, and 2015 air photos and satellite images for a 50-mile stretch of the Colville River upstream from the village of Nuiqsut. 2. Analyses of their spatial and temporal patterns. 3. Mapping of the water depth for the same 50-mile stretch of the Colville River. 4. Development of a prototype water depth map with potential shallow water sections and poor channel connections identified to aid river navigation.
Data download contains: Field collection data on water depth, turbidity, and spectral measurements. Colville River water channel mapped from 1955 and 2016 imagery. Landcover classification from 1979 aerial photography. Colville River water depth map based on August 5, 2016 Landsat image.
Data and Resources
1955_river_channel.jpg (377 KB)
1979_landcover.jpg (391 KB)
panda_colville_river_data.zip (67.9 MB)