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These pebbles settled out of the water in a stream that once flowed over this area thousands of years ago.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of Bruce Molnia, Terra Photographics

Step 3: Sediments Settling Down!

When water or wind slows down, sediment can no longer be carried in it. The particles of sediment fall through the water or air and form a blanket of sediment on the bottom of a river, a lake, ocean, or on the surface of the land.

Settling down depends on the size of the sediment. Larger pieces will settle more quickly than smaller ones. How does this happen? Try this experiment to see for yourself!

  1. Add a handful or two of sediment to a jar that includes particles of different sizes such as pebbles, sand and mud.
  2. Fill the jar with water and seal the lid on top.
  3. Shake the jar and watch the pebbles and dirt fill the water.
  4. Let the jar sit still for a few minutes. What settles on the bottom of the jar? Are any of the small particles still in the water? (The heaviest ones will fall out of the water faster than the small ones once you stop shaking the jar.)
Last modified August 25, 2003 by Lisa Gardiner.

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The Fall 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on rocks and minerals, including articles on minerals and mining, the use of minerals in society, and rare earth minerals, and includes 3 posters!

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