Is a River Young or Old? The Answer is in the Curves!

Rivers are natural water bodies which flow toward another water body such as another river, lake or ocean.  Generally, larger bodies are called rivers while smaller water bodies, which flow into the rivers, are called other names such as creeks or brooks.  All rivers have a source (where the river starts) such as a lake, marsh or spring and flow downhill to a usually larger body of water.  In some cases, such as deserts, rivers may dry up before reaching a second water body due to the heat causing the water to evaporate (turn to vapor) or in other cases rivers may disappear because the water seeps into the rocks below. 

Rivers are classified by age.  “Young” (youthful) rivers are typically straight, have very few creeks which join them, are deeper than their width, and have fast moving waters because of their steep angle.  “Mature” rivers flow more slowly than young rivers because they are less steep, have more creeks that flow into them and are wider than they are deep.  “Old” rivers are very wide, with a gentle slope and have water that flows much more slowly than younger rivers.  Perhaps the most interesting fact about the age of a river is that the older the river gets, the more curves the river will have.  Take a look at the picture above.  Can you tell if it is Youthful, Mature or Old?  If you guessed, old, your are right.  The river in this photograph loops around the countryside so much that the loops are close to touching each other!

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