In 2000 and 2003 before the closure of 3-Gorges Dam, numerous sediment samples were taken from the middle-lower Yangtze River channel to examine sediment transport processes and associated hydromorphological nature of the river. Analytical results show that the riverbeds consist mostly of medium to coarse sands and gravelly sands, and fine sand occurs locally, especially near the river coast. The results further indicate a downstream fining trend in riverbed sediment from Yichang to the river mouth, totaling about 1900 km long with 12 sediment zones (I-XII). These were identified as alternate coarse- and fine-grained sediment on the riverbed, although the zonation of I–III below Three-Gorges Dam site is weaker. The mode of sediment transport in the river is dominated by saltation (20–80%), followed by bed-load transport with 3–15%; transport by suspension is quite low. Grain-sizes associated with hydrological parameters have greater values in the Jingjiang Reaches (from Yichang to Chenglingji; unit stream power: 5–18 N m− 1s− 1, boundary shear stress: 14 Nm− 2 and mean flow velocity: 2–3.2 ms− 1), whereas the values obtained from Chenglingji downstream are considerably low (< 5 N m− 1s− 1, 1–4 Nm− 2 and < 0.7–1.5 ms− 1). These values, when compared with on-site measured velocity of the ADP flow column, revealed the erosive riverbed sediment transport in the Jingjiang Reaches, and the accumulative riverbed transport downstream, from Wuhan to the river coast. Hydrological parameters together with distribution of grain-sizes indicate a coarsening riverbed in the Jingjiang river, largely because damming peaked since the last half-century. This corroborates the weakening sediment zonation in the Jingjiang Reaches, which is expected to extend further downstream towards the river coast in response to the potential impact of 3-Gorges Dam in the coming decades.