Types of Rivers and Facts

What are the Different Types of Rivers? The Perennial River, Periodic River, Episodic River, Exotic River, Tributary River, and many more.
Types of Rivers and Facts
  1. What is a River?

    Rivers are natural water streams that flow to other water bodies such as an ocean, lake, or another river. You can find a river on every continent, and there is a minimum of 18 countries with no river. The New River, which is ironically the oldest river globally, is in the United States. The highest number of rivers is in Russia, which has about 100,000 of them.

  2. The Longest Rivers

    The Nile River, with a length of 6,853 kilometers, is the longest in the world. It is followed by the 6400 kilometers long Amazon River and the Yangtze River at 6,300 kilometers in its length. The most beautiful river globally is the Caño Cristales river which has multiple gorgeous colors and flows in Colombia.

  3. Ephemeral Rivers

    When there is a quick melting of snow and a hefty downpour; it may result in ephemeral rivers. The river’s temporary fast flow can be spotted in the desert regions where there is flash flooding on a pretty irregular basis. For most of the year, the river beds of an ephemeral river stay dry as the water table goes below the water surface leading to no base flow.

  4. Episodic Rivers

    Even though episodic rivers are rare, they are formed by runoff channels and can be seen in regions with arid climatic conditions. These may have certain permanent parts, and usually, they fervently flow only after extremely heavy rainfall. In deserts, these become a very important source of water. Episodic rivers can be considered as occasional or seasonal rivers. They are called ‘episodic’ since they solely exist after episodes of heavy rainfall and downpour.

  5. Exotic Rivers

    Exotic rivers are rivers that flow across an arid area. Most commonly, these flow across deserts and can be seen in regions of Saudi Arabia and countries surrounding it. The perfect examples would be of Euphrates and Tigris Rivers as they flow from the Persian Gulf to the north of Iran. A river is, essentially, known as exotic as it often stands out in a region. Hence, any river which sits in the middle of a barren and dry area like that of a desert is always known as an exotic river.

  6. Intermittent Rivers

    The semi-permanent nature, as well as the seasonal flow of the intermittent rivers, is what makes them well-known. In the wet period during which the runoff is due to a temporary hike in the water table or heavy rain, these rivers flow entirely. During the dry summertime period, the river bed may turn arid due to a reduction in rainfall or a declining water table.

  7. Mature Rivers

    Mature rivers are incredibly steep, and they flow slowly, as compared to the youthful rivers. Several tributaries feed into these rivers, and the youthful rivers have more sediment deposits than the mature ones. The channels do not erode deeper but broader. Some of its examples will be the Ohio River, the River Thames, the Mississippi River, the Danube River, the Ohio River, and the St. Lawrence River.

  8. Old Rivers

    Old rivers rely on floodplains, and they own a pretty low gradient. They also have a pretty low erosive energy. Some apt examples of these kinds of rivers are the Ganges, Tigris, Yellow, Indus, lower Nile, and the Euphrates rivers.

  9. Periodic Rivers

    Periodic rivers experience dry spells all through the year. This happens mostly when they are situated in arid climates that experience less frequent precipitation than the rate of evaporation. They are usually at their best flow right after heavy rains and are also known as non-perennial rivers.

  10. Permanent Rivers

    Permanent rivers never run out of water all through the year. They are also known as perennial rivers, and they get most of their water from the groundwater. Surface water runoff also contributes to the flow of water. Very seldom do these rivers run out of water, which happens during periods of rare and extreme droughts.

  11. Youthful Rivers

    The youthful rivers have a very swift and quick flow as they have a steep gradient and only a handful of tributaries. Their channels do not erode deeper but wider. The examples include the Ebro River of Spain, as well as Brazos and Trinity, the rivers of America.

  12. Biotic Classification of Rivers

    Experts use the biotic classification to identify the sensitivity towards the environmental disturbances of the surrounding habitat and the recovery time needed. For example, microhabitats possess quick recovery times, but these are very sensitive to all kinds of disturbance. On the other hand, wetlands are not extremely sensitive to the disturbances but require a longer recovery time from an environmental disturbance. When rivers are classified in this way, their ecosystem type is brought into consideration. It includes all the rivers, from the most contaminated to the cleanest and purest ones. It is further divided into three zones- the Crenon zone, the Rhithron zone, and the Potamon zone.

  13. Crenon Zone

    This region is located very close to the source of a river. To put it simply, the Crenon zone is where a river gets the start. It has two primary zones: the hypocrenons, the headstream zone, and the eucrenon surrounding the spring zone. The flow speeds of the Crenon zone are slower than the rates at the Rhithron zone. Moreover, the oxygen levels are also low here, and the temperatures are colder as well.

  14. Rhithron Zone

    This is the upstream area of the river, characterized by quicker and more intense flowing speeds. The Rhithron zone has very cool temperatures and a higher oxygen level than the Potamon zone.

  15. Potamon Zone

    The downstream region of a river is known as the Potamon zone. With a slower flowing speed, this area is generally warmer than other parts of a river. Its river bed is very sandy, and it has low oxygen content as well.

  16. Chronological Classification of Rivers

    Chronological classification is carried out based on the age of the rivers. Experts study and research the patterns of erosion to classify them chronologically. This is further divided into four rivers: mature rivers, old rivers, rejuvenated rivers, and young rivers. Mature rivers usually have grades that are not so steep. They have fast discharge speeds and numerous tributaries. These floodplains are identified by old rivers. The rejuvenated rivers comprise several gradients which rise with the help of tectonic movements. Young rivers have a quick water flow, and their channels are deep, not wide. They don’t have any tributaries.

  17. Strahler Stream Order

    Based on the number known as the ‘Strahler’ number, this classification came into being in 1952. Strahler’s number depicts how difficult is the process of branching numbers. These numbers range from first order to twelfth order. Headwaters, for example, are classified under the first order. The Amazon River, on the other hand, goes under the second order. The greater the number, the bigger and slower the river is.

    As per the experts, around 80% of the world’s rivers belong in first and second orders.  Tiny streams with no tributaries but have year-round flow belong to the first-order streams if we use Strahler Stream Order. When two streams of second-order flow into each other, a stream of Third Order is formed.

  18. Topographic Classification of Rivers

    The topographic classification of rivers is based on the specific features, physical makeup, and river shape. Every river comes under any of the three categories of such a classification. The three types are alluvial rivers, bedrock rivers, and mixed bedrock-alluvial rivers.

  19. Alluvial Rivers

    This type of river has floodplains that are the land right next to a river that is flooded often, and river routes or channels formed in the sediment, which is loosely consolidated. Due to flooding, the alluvial river follows the main course, which is filled with water. These form oxbow lakes, wetlands, as well as side channels. When there is a rise in the water level of an alluvial river, the banks get eroded. This results in sediment formation deposited in the floodplains and sandbars, generally right in the middle of a river.

    These rivers have habitats that range from deep to shallow pools with pretty turbulent waters. There are three types of alluvial rivers: anastomose, wandering, meandering, straight, and braided.

  20. Bedrock Rivers

    This type of river is formed after the waters cut across new sediment levels, which results in the formation of bedrocks below. Bedrock rivers are more common in regions where the surface of Earth has undergone a particular upward shift. It includes mountainous areas as well as uplands. These rivers consist of loose soil and sediment or plenty of alluvium. This alluvium shifts with the waters, shaping and eroding the river when it moves along. The perfect example of this kind of river will be the Colorado River flowing in the U.S.

  21. Mixed Bedrock-Alluvial Rivers

    Staying true to the name, mixed bedrock-alluvial river own a characteristic which falls under both the categories mentioned above. These rivers generally flow across varying bedrock areas and layers that have alluvial deposits.

  22. Whitewater Classification of Rivers

    Rivers not only give us fresh water and aid towards a healthy ecosystem, but they are also significant aspects of various recreational activities. It is very important to understand rivers’ whitewater classification, especially whitewater rafting or boating. According to the International Scale of River Difficulty, there are six different classes of whitewater classifications.

  23. Types of Whitewater Classification

    The Class I rivers are easy to navigate with small waves and fast flow. Class II is good for beginners, and although the rivers are wide in this class, their waves are medium-sized. The Class III level is intermediate difficult. The irregular waves of these rivers can turn and topple a canoe. Class IV is the level of advanced difficulty. This type of water has restricted passages as well as power holes and waves. The boat needs to be handled fast, and there is always the risk of the nearby swimmers getting injured.

    Class V needs the supervision of an expert as these waters have intricate passageways along with violent waves. Moreover, the rapids continue for lengthy periods before reaching the calmer pools. Class VI is the extreme difficulty level with grave dangers of error. These are supremely dangerous, and the rapids are very tough to manoeuvre, and often, rescue becomes impossible in the violent rapids.

  24. Understanding the Important River Terms

    Alluvial is referred to anything, like a river, which is deposited by the running waters. The sides of any river are called Banks. The water flows in a stream between these banks. The bed is the extreme bottom of the river or any kind of water body. When the water is brackish, it becomes saltier than the river water but not as salty as the seawater. A channel is a region where river banks confine the water flows and the area. When a river is ‘channeled,’ it is cut or grooved deeply. Effluent refers to the wastewater that flows from an industrial or commercial facility, like a factory or sewage plant.

    The estuary is the spot where the river meets a sea or ocean. For example, the site from which the freshwater of a river meets the saltwater of the ocean. Headwaters are the rivers and streams which become the sources of other rivers or streams. When anything meanders, it goes through a winding path. The mouth is the end of the river. This is the point from where the river spills to a big body of water. (See Are Sea Anemones Plants or Animals?)

  25. Some Other Terms

    Rill is a tiny channel of water that is caused by runoff water which led to soil erosion. Riparian is a term used for describing a region just nearby a body of water such as a lake, river, or stream. Riverine is the term used for anything related to, similar to, or is formed by a river. Salinity is the amount of salt present in a water body, and sediment is the tiny piece of soil or rock transported by water or wind. Silt is extremely small pieces of stones or soil, usually with a diameter below 60 micrometers. Siltation is the deposit or accumulation of silt or tiny pieces of soil and rocks.

    A Watershed is a land that drains water to a specific river, stream, or lake. The source is the exact point from where a stream or river starts.  Any stream or river which flows into any other stream, river, or lake is called a tributary. The main course of any river is known as the trunk. Confluence is the point where two rivers come together and meet.

  26. What is an Oxbow Lake?

    Oxbow lakes are stagnant lakes that develop alongside any winding river. This happens when there is a change in the path of a river because of soil erosion. An abandoned channel of a stream is left behind, separated from the rest of that river.

  27. What is a Delta?

    Delta is a vast silty region at the mouth of any river. It then splits into more than one different channel that flows slowly along muddy banks. Usually, the shape of a delta is triangular and functions as the basis for developing new land.

  28. What is a Runoff?

    In simple words, runoff is the water that runs into a stream, river, or any big water body and is usually caused by uncontrolled streams, sewage lines, or drains. This can also include waters from storms, agricultural irrigation, and even melted snow.

  29. What is Water Cycle?

    The hydrologic cycle or the water cycle is the journey of water as it moves from land to sky and then back again. It is a natural cycle that involves evaporated results from the sun’s energy, the condensation of the resulting vapor followed by the return of this water to Earth in the form of rains, sleet, or snow.

  30. How is a Waterfall Caused?

    When a river is moving over any rock cliff, it experiences a sudden drop. It is known as a waterfall. This is caused by various ways, such as a river passing over a soft-rock layer from a hard-rock layer. This results in the erosion of water from the softer layer of rock.

  31. Some Interesting Facts

    The Imjin River that flows in South Korea is known as ‘The River of the Dead’ as a massive number of dead bodies of North Koreans is spotted flowing down this river. On measuring the world’s largest eight rivers based on water volume, the Amazon River stands bigger than all these other rivers together! A picture of a river was auctioned at a whopping amount of $4.3 million. Named Rhein II, it was a photograph of the Rhein River. There are seventeen countries, including Saudi Arabia, which have no rivers. In the early 1900s, engineers actually changed the Chicago River’s flow direction, and it continues to flow in that changed direction. There are close to 20 different rivers hidden underneath London.

  32. A River of Fireballs

    Thailand is home to a unique river named the Mekong River. Every year, hundreds of fireballs are seen erupting from the surface of this river. The locals call these Naga Fireballs and believe that Naga, a mythical creature, is spitting fire from the river’s surface for producing this magnificent effect. Talking of fire, the Cuyahoga River of Cleveland has been set on fire for a minimum of thirteen times.

  33. Safety Neighbouring the Danger

    Juarez in Mexico is regarded among the most dangerous cities in the world. Interestingly, it is situated right across a river from Texas’ El Paso, which is regarded among the country’s safest cities.

  34. Some More Interesting Facts

    Initially, there was no actual mining done for diamonds. Instead, diamonds were found alongside or at the bottom of numerous rivers in India. Over 26,000 tombstones are sitting at the bottom of the Delaware River. Hudson River is so badly polluted that evolution actually happens to handle all the toxins found in that river. As per evidence, there is a hidden river situated around 2-1/2 miles below the Amazon River and is almost of the same length as the Amazon- more than 3,700 miles. Moreover, it is few hundred times wider.

  35. The Oldest New River

    New River is the name given to a river that is actually the oldest in the United States. This river flows across West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. As per many experts, it is just the Nile River which is older than the New River.

  36. A River Struck by Lightening Every Day

    Every hour, the Catatumbo River of Venezuela receives more than 250 lightning strikes. Every day, this takes place ten hours and up to 160 days every year. There have been no logical explanations for this phenomenon so far, but this has been occurring for centuries.

  37. The Havoc Created by Earthquakes

    During the early 1800s, the earthquake in New Madrid was so strong that the sidewalks of Washington, D.C., cracked.  Not just that, the church bells started ringing in Boston, and the Mississippi River began flowing in the reverse direction.

  38. Swimming through the Rivers

    Hailing from Slovenia, a man called Martin Strel has swum various rivers, including the Yangtze River of China, the Amazon River of South America, and the Danube River of Europe, as well as the Mississippi River of the United States. He also possesses successive Guinness World Records as he swam through these rivers. This Slovenian swimmer is regarded among the most well-known and elite endurance athletes. He thrives by his motto of “swimming for peace, friendship, and clean waters.” He also has a documentary based on his life, Big River Man, which he is the subject and the star of. The film chronicles the athlete’s historic swim of 3,300 miles of the Amazon River.

  39. The Effects of a Full Moon

    In a single year, the full moon causes a tidal wave that rolls up the Amazon River once a day and once a night. This happens for three weeks. This results in the continuous formation of 2-1/2 miles high waves, which can be surfed for around eight miles.

  40. The Largest Rivers

    The Mississippi River, St. Lawrence River, Ohio River, Columbia River, Yukon River, Missouri River, Tennessee River, and the Mobile River are the eight largest rivers of the world.

  41. The Longest and the Shortest

    Running for around 4,000 miles, the Niles is regarded as the longest river globally, while the shortest is the Roe River. It is around 200 feet in length and runs between the Giant Springs and Missouri River. This is close to the Great Falls in Montana.

  42. The Formation of Rivers

    Headwaters that are the streams and springs flow down for forming streams or huge springs. The stream beds are present between the banks of the river. While the smaller streams are called creeks, brooks, rivulets, and tributaries, the big streams are, of course, the rivers.

  43. The Sources of River Water

    The water source of any river comes through the precipitation of groundwater as well as from the release of water that is stored in glaciers and other such natural reservoirs. Rain is regarded as the primary source of water in rivers. The rainwater from hills moves down through the slopes and then flows right into the riverbeds. Usually, the flow is in an evenly distributed route and is known as runoff.

  44. The Starting Point

    Every river has its own starting point, and when it comes to the direction of flow of a river, gravity plays a pivotal role. In a humid region, the starting points generally come from the springs. Having said that, there can be other kinds of starting points too, such as melting glaciers, marshes as well as lakes. When the flow of water across a specific distance, the flow starts happening in parallel rills. It also gains pace at every step. The rills will soon unite to form a stream. Once the rill is united with a stream, there is the formation of a brook. A brook flows into the valleys and then eventually becomes a river.

  45. The Importance of Rivers

    Rivers are supremely important as they have been the sources of water, transport, and food since the prehistoric era. These water bodies give water to the farms, which are cultivated and are also the primary source of fresh water in the world. Moreover, rivers are capable of sustaining their own food chain. They offer travel routes for recreation, commerce as well as exploration. The river plains and valleys also add fertility to the soil. Farmers living in dry, arid regions carry water from the nearby rivers from irrigation ditches for irrigating their croplands.

    They play a plethora of roles and multi-dimensions to increase the communities’ livability grounded close to the rivers. They also supply nutrients and water to regions all across the planet. Where there is water, there is life. They are very important for the water cycle because they act as drainage channels for the surface water. They can drain close to 75% of the land surface of Earth. (See How does it feel like to swim in the dead sea?)

  46. Habitats Surviving Because of Rivers

    Rivers offer brilliant food and habitat to almost all the organisms of the Earth, directly or indirectly. Many rare trees and plants grow along the banks of the rivers. Animals like beavers, voles, ducks, and otters create their homes right next to the rivers. Bulrushes, reeds, and other plants also grow here. Animals that do not live close to the rivers benefit from their water in food and drink. Birds like kingfishers feed on the tiny fish swimming in the rivers.

    Big animals such as giraffes, elephants, and lions depend on the rivers for drinking water. Animals like bears also catch fish from here. You can also see a variety of flora and fauna and varying species of wildlife at the river deltas. Birds, mammals, and insects use these deltas for their food and habitat.

  47. Rivers as a Source of Energy

    Rivers work as a very important source of energy. In the early industrial period, factories, mills, and shops were constructed close to the fast-flowing rivers so that the water could be easily used for powering the machines. Today, the steep rivers still serve in powering hydroelectric plants as well as water turbines.

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