River Bathymetry Toolkit (RBT)

The RBT is a suite of GIS tools that work within ESRI’s ArcGIS Desktop software.

The RBT allows users to describe and measure river channels using high resolution digital elevation models (DEM). The DEMs can be derived from airborne remote sensing, such as LiDAR, or from ground based topographic surveys.


With the RBT you can:

  • Detrend a DEM to remove the longitudinal valley slope.
  • Cut user-defined cross sections through the DEM.
  • Define the hydraulic geometry in each cross section, e.g. the bankfull width/depth.
  • Compute stream gradient and sinuosity.
  • Cut long profiles down the length of a channel and map longitudinal variations in any of the channel geometry metrics.
  • Vary the water level in a detrended DEM to investigate the distribution of water depths inside a stream and the extent of “off-channel” habitat still hydraulically connected to the main stem flow.
  • Locate residual pools, which may be used to identify fish habitat.


The Primary River Bathymetry Toolkit interface within ArcMap

The River Cross-Section Explorer interface of RBT within ArcMap

The Longitudinal Explorer interface of RBT within ArcMap

Keywords & Themes: Water resources / Riparian and geomorphic change / Open crowd sourced data / Geospatial tools / Time-series roll-up

The RBT is licensed for use at no charge. Use the links below to download the latest version of the toolkit. The latest version of the RBT is structured as an ArcGIS Add-In. For information on how to install the RBT, please visit our help page. USFS link

Latest version:

File ArcGIS Version Date Version
2015_10_21_RBTDesktop_4_0_1.zip 10.1 21 Oct 2015 4.0.1
  • RBT Help
  • RBT Forum
  • RBT Tutorial Workbook. Originally developed for a 2-day workshop titled “New Tools in Process-Based Analysis of Lidar Topographic Data.” The tutorial takes about 2.5 hrs to complete, including reading the included background material on the RBT. The exercises demonstrate most of the current RBT features and will provide an overview of what can be achieved with your own data.
  • Tutorial data (128 Mb download)

Key Contacts

Contact us if you have any questions or would like to discuss the current or future RBT feature set.