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River landforms

Rivers have an upper, middle and lower course. Each course has its own features. Watch the video to find out more.


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Key points

  • Rivers have an upper, middle and lower course.
  • In the upper course, the river erodes the landscape and bends to avoid hard rock, creating interlocking spurs.
  • Rapids and waterfalls can form when it runs over alternating layers of hard and soft rock. This is because soft rock erodes more easily than hard rock.
  • In the middle course the river flows on a gentler slope with more energy and volume. Sideways erosion widens the channel to the right and then the left forming horseshoe-like loops called meanders.
  • Over time the meander becomes tighter. Eventually the river can flow over two ends leaving an oxbow lake.
  • In the lower course, a high volume of water flows over flat land. It now has a wide floodplain which is the area around a river that is covered when it floods. Floodplains are fertile and good for agriculture because of the rich alluvium in floodwaters.

All Geography videos

Water and rivers index

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