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Grand Teton National Park Report

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The Snake River is a central component of Grand Teton National Park, and this dynamic fluvial system plays a key role in shaping the landscape and maintaining a diversity of habitat conditions. The river’s inherent variability and propensity for change complicate effective characterization of this important resource, however; conventional, ground-based methods are not adequate for this purpose. Remote sensing provides an appealing alternative that could facilitate resource management while providing novel insight on factors influencing channel form and behavior. This study evaluates the potential for using optical data to measure the morphology and dynamics of a large, complex river such as the Snake. More specifically, we assessed the feasibility of estimating flow depth from multispectral satellite images acquired in September 2011. Our initial results indicate that reliable maps of river bathymetry can be produced from such data. We are also examining channel changes associated with a prolonged period of high flow during the 2011 snowmelt runoff season by comparing these satellite images with digital aerial photography from August 2010. An extensive field data set on flow velocities provides some hydraulic context for the observed morphodynamics. More sophisticated hyperspectral and LiDAR data sets are scheduled for collection in 2012, along with additional field measurements.