Studying rivers, riffles and pools

Simulating the natural environment

The natural environment is filled with unpredictability and mutually dependent variables. It is often difficult to determine direct cause and effect type responses with this tremendous variability, so it is helpful to conducted experiments in controlled settings. As a student at Connecticut College, you can participate in studies conducted with our hydraulic research flume.

View a slide show of the research flume during experiments. *

Research flumes are used to simulate river flow processes in this type of controlled setting. The National Science Foundation provided Connecticut College with the funding for a 6-meter long, recirculating flume that we use to study fluvial processes common in pools and riffles.

The flume is used primarily for research on channel morphology and pool hydraulics. The experiments we perform allow for replication of the processes important in creating natural channel variations in bed elevation. This channel morphology is critical for aquatic habitat formation. The results from the research are intended to aid in design of river-restoration projects. Many channel-restoration designers need detailed information on proper design and characteristics of pools and riffles to insure a project's success.

The flume's specifics

  • The flume has a total length of 8 m with a working channel that is 6-m long, 0.5-m wide and 0.3-m deep.
  • The flume can be tilted from 0% to 5% slope.
  • Water depths can be controlled with the use of a downstream tailgate (dam).
  • The discharge in the flume can also be varied up to 40 liters/second (10 gallons/second).
  • The flume is considered a recirculating design, meaning that the same water and sediment travel down the length of the flume and is pumped back upstream.
  • The flume is capable of pumping both water and sediment (up to ¾”) in this cycle.
  • The flume was built in Minnesota by Engineering Laboratory Design Inc.

Want to know more?

For more information about the flume, contact Professor Doug Thompson in the department of physics, astronomy and geophysics.

* This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9874751. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.