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How Currents erode River Beds

The erosive power of water in a river comes from the abrasive action on the bottom of the river by the sand and gravel carried by the stream. Erosion developes from eddies and channels, which cut new paths for the flow of the river as a whole. The power of the current itself will gradually cut into the bottom and sides of the river bed, such as the case with the Colorado River cutting the Grand Canyon out of the Arizona desert.

The patterns of channels in which rivers seem to flow can differ. These patterns are called:

A meandering river is quite common. A river which meanders, such as the lower portion of the Mississippi River, will sometimes jump its banks and cut a new channel for itself. Such an occurence can be quite disconcerting for people who live nearby!


This is a picture of the Colorado River.
Click on image for full size version (408K GIF)
Image from:

Examples of rivers carving channels


How Currents erode River Beds

The erosive power of water in a river comes from the abrasive action on the bottom of the river by the sand and gravel carried by the stream. Erosion developes from eddies and channels, which cut new paths for the flow of the river as a whole. The power of the current itself will gradually cut into the bottom and sides of the river bed, such as the case with the Colorado River cutting the Grand Canyon out of the Arizona desert.

The patterns of channels in which rivers seem to flow can differ. These patterns are called:

A meandering river is quite common. A river which meanders, such as the lower portion of the Mississippi River, will sometimes jump its banks and cut a new channel for itself. Such an occurence can be quite unsettling for people who live nearby!


This is a picture of the Colorado River.
Click on image for full size version (408K GIF)
Image from:

Examples of rivers carving channels


How Currents erode River Beds

The erosive power of water in a river comes from the abrasive action on the bottom of the river by the sand and gravel carried by the stream. Erosion developes from eddies and channels, which cut new paths for the flow of the river as a whole. The power of the current itself will gradually cut into the bottom and sides of the river bed, such as the case with the Colorado River cutting the Grand Canyon out of the Arizona desert.

The patterns of channels in which rivers seem to flow can differ. These patterns are called:

A meandering river is quite common. A river which meanders, such as the lower portion of the Mississippi River, will sometimes jump its banks and cut a new channel for itself. Such an occurence can be quite unsettling for people who live nearby!


This is a picture of the Grand Canyon.
Click on image for full size version (408K GIF)
Image from:

Examples of rivers carving channels



Last modified February 24, 1998 by the Windows Team

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