Stream Type G — Gully

If you are gully, you know that you’re not only running through a fairly steep stretch in a tight-fitting, narrow channel but also meandering enough to put pressure on your sidewalls. With no access to a floodplain that could help you spread out and slow down, this is a recipe for instability — lots of erosion generating lots of sediment.

You are a stream in transition.

photo from epa.gov

Most often gullies start when something digs down and lowers the elevation of a stream’s bed in any location, literally pulling the bottom out from under that section of the channel:

  • The water comes along and drops abruptly into this deeper new “base level.” It has a steeper slope at this location which means more power.
  • This newly energized water shaves off a bit of soil on the face of the drop, extending the “drop spot” back a bit from where it started.
  • Then the falling water cuts more soil from this new drop location.
  • And so on. The stream slices through its own bed in an upstream direction.
  • This backward erosion – called a head cut — will continue until the entire stream’s elevation has adjusted down to match the new base level.

Before the gullying began you were flowing along as any one of the other kinds of stream channels. Eventually, your channel will revert to your original stream type – just down at a different elevation.

Rather than wait out the natural devolution-evolution process, you might want to initiate some stream restoration measures to stop the gullying and promote quicker healing. The most surefire ways are:

1) Give yourself room to spread out and slow down. In nature, gullies lack floodplains.

2) Stabilize yourself and those adjacent areas with roots. Whatever feels supportive, nourishing, and strengthening, plant it in your life and protect it from grazing animals or zealous landscapers.

3) Stop the down-cutting of your foundation. The best techniques for such repairs are those based on nature’s blueprints of healthy channels — preferably on the clues left by your own healthy “reference reach” — so interview several different Natural Channel Hydrologists (or therapists/life coaches if you’re a human being!). Choose the one that makes you feel best inside. That person can help you turn this transition into an opportunity to discover and become more joyously true to your own nature.

Click HERE to return to the list with links to all 8 types

For more “G-type” photos and stories on “Like a River,” visit this link:

“Traumatized”, “Healing Your Gully, Part1

[This personality typing system is based on the Rosgen Stream Classification System developed by Dave Rosgen of Wildland Hydrology and presented in his book Applied River Morphology and his Catena journal article -- not that he has endorsed using it for personality typing!]

2 Responses to Stream Type G — Gully

  1. Katie Burke says:

    I’m a gully. This is hilarious, since my PhD research is about gullies. But I’m skewing the details to look at it positively – growing and changing rapidly (large potential for the most geomorphic work being done), sometimes working long, unsustainable hours (but sporadically like ephemeral gullies).
    Maybe I’ll take the test again when the semester is over, and see how it changes!!

    Thanks for the fun, Betsy!

    • Betsy says:

      Sounds like grad school still encourages unsustainable behavior! I can tell by your words you got it figured out though. Thanks for playing, Katie, and keep me posted, okay?

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