Features of a River
Our River Severn pages have many photos of the features of rivers.
As a river flows, the force of its moving water washes away loose soil and pieces of rock. In this way the river cuts its own channel in the ground. The process of wearing away rocks is called erosion.
A gorge is a steep-sided river valley which is very narrow and deep.
A meander is a bend in a river.
Meanders normally occur in the middle and lower courses where the water is moving more slowly. The river carves out S-shaped bends.
At its mouth, the river flows into another body of water. The mouth may be where the river meets the sea, a lake or a larger waterway. Most rivers flow out into the sea, and this is where they end their journey.
If a river has a wide mouth, this is called an estuary. An estuary has a mixture of salty and fresh water. The fresh water from the river extends out into the sea. Some of the salty water from the sea travels up the river mouth. This mixture of salt and fresh water is called brackish water.
The river carries a lot of sediment as it travels from its source to its mouth. When the fresh water from the river meets the salty water from the sea, the river drops its sediment. Most is then washed away by the sea, the river and the tides.
A dam is a barrier (wall) of earth, concrete or rock built across a river to restrict the flow of water.
A weir is an artificial wall built across a river in order to make the river deeper.
A lock and weir system is needed where the river bed is steep and the water flows too quickly.
The floodplain is the flat land of the river valley close to the river banks. The floodplain is usually found in the lower course of a river. It is a fertile area of land, used for agriculture and growing crops.