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Stages of a river

The Stages of a River

Nearly all rivers have an upper, middle, and lower course.


Young River - the upper course

The beginning of a river, when it flows quickly with lots of energy, is called a young river. The river here is smaller and usually has a rapid, tumbling flow that cuts a narrow channel through rocky hills or mountains.

The fast flowing river can create waterfalls where it carves out layers of soft rock and leaves a cliff of hard rock standing.

Middle Aged River - the middle course

The middle of a river’s journey, when it gets wider and slows down, is called the middle age.

Middle course

Rivers often meander (follow a winding path) along their middle course.

The current of the river no longer has the force to carry stones or gravel. This material drops to the riverbed, where it forms bars of sand or gravel or builds islands.


Old River - the lower course

When the river reaches the end of its journey, it is called an old river. The end of the river is called the mouth.

Mouth of the River Thames

At the mouth, there is often a river delta, a large, silty area where the river splits into many different slow-flowing channels that have muddy banks.


The photograph below show the sediment (mud) that the Darent has brought with it on its journey to the River Thames.

Mouth of the River Darent