Upper course features

Upper course river features include steep-sided V-shaped valleys, interlocking spurs, rapids, waterfalls and gorges.

Middle course river features include wider, shallower valleys, meanders, and oxbow lakes.

Lower course river features include wide flat-bottomed valleys, floodplains and deltas.

Upper-course river featuresUpper course river features
Interlocking spurs on a tributary of the Yangtze
Interlocking spurs on a tributary of the Yangtze River

As the river moves through the upper course, it cuts downwards. The gradient here is steep and the river channel is narrow. Vertical erosion in this highland part of the river helps to create steep-sided V-shaped valleys, interlocking spurs, rapids, waterfalls and gorges.

  • As the river erodes the landscape in the upper course, it winds and bends to avoid areas of hard rock. This creates interlocking spurs, which look a bit like the interlocking parts of a zip.
  • When a river runs over alternating layers of hard and soft rock, rapids and waterfalls may form.
The formation of waterfalls and rapidsThe formation of waterfalls and rapids