Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!

Geography

River landforms

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

Video

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

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

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.