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• Middle and lower courses of rivers have a higher
discharge than the upper course because water
from the rest of the drainage basin has drained
into the river in its middle and lower course.
• The river has a greater discharge and so has
more energy to transport material. Material that
is transported by a river is called its load.
• The river is now flowing over flatter land and so
the dominant direction of erosion is lateral.
• Deposition is also an important process and
occurs when the velocity of the river decreases
or if the discharge falls due to a dry spell of
Four processes:
1. Traction : Boulders and pebbles are rolled along the
river bed at times of high discharge.

2. Saltation : Sand sized particles are bounced along the
river bed by the flow of water.

3. Suspension : Fine clay and sand particles are carried
along within the water, even at low discharges

4. Solution : Some minerals dissolve in water such as
calcium carbonate. This requires very little energy.


Traction Saltation
Landforms found can include:
(I) Meanders & Ox bow lakes (created by
deposition & erosion)

(II) Floodplains and Leveés, & Delta (created by

(III) Braided channel (Created by deposition)
Characteristics of a Plan view of a meander
F a s t e s t f lo w

Meanders are bends in
the course of a river channel.
Cross-section through a meander A-B
F a s tes t F lo w

Helicoidal flow In ne r B e n d
O u te r B e n d

R iv er C liff Low velocity
In shallow water
(high velocity in
deep water)

S lip O f f S lo p e
(point bar)
U n d e rc u tting
(lateral erosion especially by
Hydraulic action & corrasion) (sand & shingle)
A re a of d ep o s it io n
• Appears as a river approaches middle course & gradient of channel
becomes less steep.

• Meanders are a result of helicoidal flow, in which fastest current
spiral downstream in a corkscrew fashion.

• This result is erosion on outside bend of meander to form a river cliff
& deposition on the inside bend forming slip-off slope. (Point bar)

• The material eroded from outer bank of a meander will spiral
downstream & deposited on the inner bank building up to form point
bar deposits.

Click this link to see animation on meander
Riffle & pools
Riffles: deposition of a coarse material that create areas of shallow
water. (water velocity increases as it passes over riffled surface)

Pools: areas of deeper water between riffles. ( flows more sluggishly out
of pools)

Pools and riffles developed in section along river channel which create
different gradient of channel.

Coarse pebbles create steeper gradient than eroded pools.
River cross-sections in a meander
Meander migration
Meanders change their location over time
hence the term ‘migrate’, move in 2
(i) Sideways
(ii) Downstream
(i) Migrate sideways
• Over time a meander widens & the neck
• This is due to erosion (lateral) on the
outside of the meander
forming a river cliff.
(ii) Migrate downstream

• The meanders migrate downstream & the river cliffs ‘join
up’ to form a line of river bluffs.
• The point bar deposits, which are added to by silt
deposited during flooding, build up
the thickness of floodplain.
Ox-bow lake
A crescent shape lake formed in a meander.

1. As meander moves downstream,
one side meander catch up river channel downstream.

2. Eventually river may break through neck of meander
cause major river diversion.
3. The river abandons the original meander channel in
favour shorter steep new route.

4. Formation of cut-off occur at times high energy of the
river, such as at peak discharge (bankfull condition/flood).
5. Reduced velocity at the entrance to former meander,
especially when floodwater subside, results in deposition
which seals off the meander to leave an ox-bow lake.

6. The water in ox-bow lake becomes calm resulting
deposition of sediment and over time water in lake may
dissapear through infiltration and evaporation to leave a
meander scar.
Floodplains & levees
Floodplain & levees
Levees are high banks of silt close to the river channel
which are formed by repeated river flooding.

It is common in lower course of a river where there is

It is flat area of land either side of river forming valley floor.

They are composed of alluvium deposited by river and form fertile soil.
Formation of levees & floodplain.
• When river floods, water overflows its banks & valley
floor is shallower, velocity falls & result in deposition of
• Coarser material deposited first building up natural
embankments along the channel called levees.
• In time of low flow such as during a dry season river bed
raised by deposition (silt and sand) aggraded (build up)
river bed
• Finer material such as sand and clays are deposited
further from river to alluvium on floodplain
• Deltas are areas of land at the mouth of a
river jutting out into sea.

• They are flat areas of land crossed by many
stream channels called distributaries.

• The distributaries are often flanked by levees.

• The levees joined together by spits and bars
sealing off shallow areas of water forming lagoons.
• Lagoons are gradually filled up with silt and
sand to form marshes and eventually dry land
colonised by vegetation.

• This form a fertile land for farming and
settlement, e.g. Deltas of the Ganges and Nile.
Conditions for deposition to occur:
1. River must carry large load, e.g. Mississippi
river carries 450 m tonnes of sediment into its
delta distributaries every year.

2. The material must be deposited faster than it’s
removed by action of tides, waves and

3. Most deltas occur in calm seas with a gently
sloping sea bed.
4. The river meets sea which acts as a break
slowing the velocity and encouraging deposition.

5. The salt in seawater on meeting river generates
an electrical charge that causes particles to
coagulate or stick together so increase their
weight and encouraging deposition. This
process is called flocculation.

6. The river floods frequently in lower course
depositing alluvium in delta, build up levees &
creating new distributaries.
Types of delta
(A) Cuspate (tooth’s delta) : where material
brought down by a river is spread out evenly
on either side of its channel. E.g. Tiber
Bird’s foot delta.
(C ) Bird’s foot: where the river has many
distributaries bounded by sediment and
which extent out to sea like the claws of a
bird’s foot.e.g. the Mississippi.
Arcuate delta
(B) Arcuate (fan-shaped delta) : having
rounded, convex outer margin e.g. Nile.
Braided channel
A braided stream has islands or eyots of deposited material
within the channel.

Braiding occurs in stream where load contains high proportion of
coarser sands and gravel.

Braiding is a characteristic of streams and rivers with very variable
discharges common in Semi-arid environments, or glacier-fed streams.

Plan view of a braided channel
(i) In semi-arid environments
High discharge: Torrential downpours lead to overland flow
creating stream with high velocities and large loads.
Low discharge: Rapid evaporation and infiltration following
storm rapidly reduce volume and velocities resulting
deposition of load.

(ii) Temperate climate:
High discharge: Streams and river fed by glaciers have
high discharges
when there is rapid melting of ice during the day in
Low discharge: At night and in winter.
However when velocity falls the stream’s
competency and capacity are reduced.

The large load is deposited forming the
eyots and causing stream to divide into a
series of smaller channels.