Erosion at Lake Mead

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Lake Mead National Recreation Area Drought Effects - Erosion
The current drought has exposed large areas of the what was once desert, then flooded, and is again desert.

This process has an interesting effect on shoreline areas. The erosion process in desert reservoirs such as Lake Mead is often considered in terms of a static shoreline. That would be the shoreline as it existed when the erosion process at a particular reservoir or area is being considered.

In fact, Lake Mead and Lake Powell have shorelines which can vary drastically. The current drought being an extreme example. 
When Lake Mead is near its 'normal' level, it will have fluctuations in it level that are much smaller but have more of an effect on the shoreline.

This process is most evident is on the eastern shore of the Overton Arm, south of Mormon Mesa. In the first photo, we can see at least four different places where the shoreline had been static long enough to leave a mark on the surface.

This results in a completely unpredictable pattern of erosion because the water levels will be unpredictable.

The erosion pattern which results in some places is different than any ever seen on this landscape.
Here the action of shoreline erosion causes the softer strata to wash away at different levels causing the caliche layers to collapse on themselves creating giant piles of flat, exposed caliche.

As this wall of caliche forms, it begins to ward off further erosion.

At some places the soft earth is completely washed or blown away.

This changes how plants can use this area.

It changes a lot of other things in the area and the effects of this type of erosion might not be fully understood.

Ultimately the erosion process in places along the Lake Mead shoreline is controlled by the rainfall in the entire Colorado River basin, the type of soil and rock that is in the area and the requirements of Hoover Dam.
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