NAGT > Teaching Resources > Teaching in the Field > Field Trip Examples > Cattaraugus Creek Characteristics

Cattaraugus Creek Characteristics:

Kevin Williams, Buffalo State College

Intended Audience: Undergraduate course in geomorphology, this activity relates to the fluvial geomorph aspect.


I use this activity on Cattaraugus Creek, New York, although it can be used on any local stream.


This activity follows a field trip where we visit locations along Cattaraugus Creek, NY. In this assignment, students use topo maps to calculate gradient and they calculate and evaluate hydrographs.


Students start this exercise using topographic maps of an area recently visited on a field trip to calculate and consider stream gradient of a major river south of Buffalo, NY. The activity then changes gears to have students work with discharge measurements from this stream. They use these measurements to plot and evaluate a few hydrographs which are used to compare how discharge in this stream can be used to consider how much precipitation was received in a certain year. In this lab, students practice mathematically calculating geomorphic properties of a stream, plotting data, and comparing topographic maps to what they observed on the recent field trip. Designed for a geomorphology course, this activity uses online and/or real-time data. The activity addresses student fear of quantitative aspect and/or inadequate quantitative skills.


Students will use measurements off of topographic maps to calculate river gradient. They will also calculate average discharges to plot hydrographs and will interpret those graphs in order to compare the rainfall in different years. Students need to critically evaluate the hydrographs that they produce to determine whether certain years were "wet" or "dry" in terms of rainfall/snowmelt. Students use a fair amount of math in this exercise, so any deficiencies can be identified and addressed.

Assessment and Evaluation:

Based on the answers to the lab, it is usually clear which areas students need help on. The one time I have run this lab, problems were usually with math or interpreting the hydrographs.

Materials and Handouts:

Activity Description/Assignment (Acrobat (PDF) 43kB May29 08)