The borders of The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres are defined by two bodies of water—the White River and the canal. The White River bends to the west along the path at the north end of the Park, and the canal continues south. IMA staff partnered with scientists from the US Geological Survey (USGS) to study the connections between the landscape in the Park and the White River. What has been learned about this relationship aids in the understanding of how the landscape has changed and may change over time, how flooding affects the Park, and how our use of the land affects the river.

The movement of glaciers over 17,000 year ago determined the general path of the White River and the surrounding topography, but it has also been affected by the flow of the river itself. The way in which a river does this is dependent on the speed of the current within the stream. In places where the water is moving quickly, more erosion occurs. In places where the water moves slowly, suspended rocky material, also called alluvium, is deposited on the riverbed. When dams slow the current of a river, sand or gravel bars can develop in the middle of a river as well, as can be seen in the White River south of 38th Street.

This image illustrates the velocity measurements taken in the White River by the USGS. The red regions indicate the areas where water is moving the fastest, while the blue regions mark the slowest moving currents.

In this image, color indicates depth, and various features created by the flow of the river are annotated.