Chilocco Creek

Site maps of Chilocco Creek site.

Photo taken in September, 1997.

Photo taken in September, 2001.

“Serious problems cannot be dealt with at the level of thinking that created them.”  Albert Einstein

Phone: 405-620-2004



1504 Ann Arbor Drive

Norman, Oklahoma 73069-5363

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Phone: 405-620-2004


Chilocco Creek was the first stream construction project I was involved with.  Although planning for the Echota Bend project started much earlier construction on Chilocco Creek was completed first.

“Wild rivers are earth's renegades, defying gravity, dancing to their own tunes, resisting the authority of humans, always chipping away, and eventually always winning.”

                                                                                                                          Richard Bangs, River Gods

“The song of the river ends not at her banks but in the hearts of those who have loved her.”

                                 Buffalo Joe

Chilocco Creek is a tributary to the Arkansas River.  It has a watershed area of 43 square miles, 28% of which is located in Kansas, and is located primarily in the Central Great Plains Eco-Region.  The Chilocco Creek project site is located approximately 7 miles northeast of Newkirk in Kay County, Oklahoma.

Approximately 150 feet section of bank was eroding partially due to an old county road bridge that washed out several years previous. The channel made a fairly sharp bend to the east after the bridge but was constricted and had no floodplain.  As a result, the outside bank was eroding and threatening an old rock barn built in the late 1800’s.  The barn was reported by a local inhabitant to have been built by “a young man and his mule.”  He supposedly built two of them in the area.

I first discovered the site in February, 1997 when personnel from the Kay County Conservation District (KCCD) took me by the site on our way to another site on the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River.  They and the NRCS were going to try some bio-engineering on the site, their plan being to use willow stakes and sod to stabilize the bank. 

After seeing the site and walking a mile or so of the channel I did not like their chances of success.  The main reason for my concern can be seen in the accompanying photos.  The inside bank at the eroding site had fairly vertical banks and a depositional zone trying to develop a point bar.  Other more stable bends exhibited extensive point bars at roughly the same level.   

It was my opinion that the elongating point bar would continue to increase the stress against the almost vertical bank near the barn resulting in continued erosion and that vegetation alone would not stop the process.  It seemed to me however that if the NRCS and the KCCD continued with their plans and I added a geomorphic component then the project had a good chance of success.

So I surveyed the site.  I ran a longitudinal survey and several cross-sections.  I plotted the cross-section of a stable bend located upstream of the site (red line on the graph below) over the cross-section of the unstable bend of concern (blue line on the graph).  The red line became my design cross-section.  To help stabilize the toe of the slope I proposed to install four root wads.

Photo taken prior to construction (Feb., 1997).

Chilocco Creek site (inside bend).

Typical point bar at other bends.

Existing, proposed and as-built cross-sections.

Construction was accomplished in one day on April 4, 1997.  The channel was shaped using a tracked excavator and a bull dozer.  The root wads were placed in the channel with the excavator that was equipped with a bracket (or “dead thumb”).

Personnel from the NRCS and KCCD did the sodding and willow staking.  The initial plan to place sod on the bank was modified slightly in that sprigging was used in lieu of sod on part of the bank.

As the excavator was walking on the trailer at the end of the day, it started raining.  And it rained and it rained.  There is no gauge on Chilocco Creek but it is guessed that the discharge approached or surpassed the bankfull flow.  Flow lines could be seen in places on the bank.  The willow staking did not take place until after the rains stopped.

An as-built survey was conducted on April 18, 1997 (green line on the graph).  The cross-section and pictures taken after the high flow show that the project was fairly successful.  The constructed point bar received slight deposition which you would expect and the toe of the bank remained stable. 

Pictures taken over the years reveal how successful the project has been.  Although, the vegetation did not establish  quite as well as desired the root wads have stabilized the toe of the bank and it has seen only very minor slumping.

Root wad details.

Outside bend after construction

(April 18, 1997).

Inside bend after construction.

(April 18, 1997)