River Valleys

In GCSE Geography, you will spend a lot of time looking at rivers. This is one of several quizzes on rivers and it looks specifically at river valleys and some of their features, such as meanders, waterfalls and oxbow lakes..

Valleys are defined as the low lying areas of land between hills or mountains, normally with a river or some sort of water course running through them. River valleys are commonly V-shaped, narrow and steeper near to the river's source but become U-shaped, wide and flatter as the river works its way down to sea level.

Nearly all major settlements and civilisations are located within river valleys, and for thousands of years we relied on these rivers for transport, defence, waste disposal and power.

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River valleys have a series of features that you need to know about for your exam, including meanders, interlocking spurs, levees, waterfalls, rapids and estuaries. Meanders (the movement of the river across the valley floor which forces back the sides of the valley and deposits rich alluvial soils) are one feature in particular that you need to understand.

Depending on the geology, weather systems, ecosystems and human activity the rivers (and so their valleys and river channels) will have vastly different shapes. Lots of things can affect a river valley's features. Amazingly, the reintroduction of wolves into the Yellowstone National Park lead to the river meandering less and carving a deeper and more stable channel. This was due to the wolves changing the grazing behaviour of the deer in the park, and so allowing vegetation to stabilise the banks.

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  1. What is a braided channel?
    Braided channels form when a river with a large sediment load changes discharge regularly, forming sub channels and islands in the middle of the river
  2. What is the name given to the point where two rivers meet?
    When rivers meet the point where they flow together is the confluence. Where two river valleys may also meet they can form a wide flood plain
  3. Gorges, also known as canyons, are deep ravines. One of the most famous is the Grand Canyon in Arizona, with an average depth of 1 mile. Which of these is not a way these gorges commonly form?
    Glacial valleys are commonly U-shaped valleys, rather than the V-shaped steep sided gorges. Flooded glacial valleys are called fjords
  4. Why is river discharge greater downstream?
    A river's discharge is the volume of water flowing through it. As the river moves down the drainage basin more of the drained water from tributaries, surface and other flows enters the river thus increasing its discharge
  5. As rivers move laterally across the floor of a flood plain they erode the banks to form sweeping curves. What is the term for these curves in the river channel?
    Meandering means wandering aimlessly or following a winding course
  6. Billabongs are a famous type of Australian habitat. These form when a meander bend is isolated from the main channel as a new channel is cut across the narrowed neck of a convoluted meander bend. What are these features more commonly known as?
    When a meander bend is cut off an oxbow lake is formed. Gradually these will fill with sediment and dry up
  7. What is the name of the islands that form in the middle of a braided channel?
    The islands that separate braided channels are called eyots. If these are colonised by pioneer species of plants they will stablise the island and permanaent land may form
  8. Flood plains provide fertile farming land and level sites for industry and settlements. How do flood plains form?
    Meanders are the key feature in creating that wide valley floor, as they erode the banks on the outside of the meander and deposit sand, silt and organic material on the inside, leaving behind flat fertile land
  9. Fan-shaped river deltas arch out into the sea as the river splits into multiple distributaries. Which of the following is the other name for fan shaped deltas?
    Arcuate deltas are also known as fan shaped deltas and are the shape we most commonly associated with deltas
  10. At what point on a meander bend does deposition occur?
    Deposition occurs when velocity is lowered, such as on the inside of a meander bend

Author: Ruth M

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