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The Formation of Meanders and Ox-Bow Lakes

Varun Tumuluru
Arvian Hesketh
Carlotta Paone
10/02/14
River Landforms:

FIGURE 1: RIVER LANDFORMS1

Figure 1 depicts the various different landforms that a formed across a river basin, and from the
source to the mouth can include tributaries; confluences; deltas; levees; meanders; ox-bow lakes and
so on. This factsheet will focus primarily on the formation of meanders and ox-bow lakes.

1
(Podbury, 2013)

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The Formation of Meanders and Ox-Bow Lakes
Varun Tumuluru
Arvian Hesketh
Carlotta Paone
10/02/14
Meanders: are often located in the middle course of rivers, they are winding curves or bends in
rivers2

FIGURE 2: MEANDER CROSS-SECTION3

Figure 2 depicts a cross section of a meandering river; portraying the water speed: slowest on the
inside bend, and fastest on the outside. The erosion and deposition; the former of which takes place in
the outer bend – forming a river cliff, while the latter taking place on the inside bend (low velocity),
creating a slip-off slope of sediment

FIGURE 3: FORMATION OF A MEANDER.4

Figure 3 depicts the formation of a meander; detailed stages are below:

2
(Bennett, 2010)
3
(i-Study, n.d.)
4
(Field Studies Council, 2010)

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The Formation of Meanders and Ox-Bow Lakes
Varun Tumuluru
Arvian Hesketh
Carlotta Paone
10/02/14
1. During low hydraulic radius and flows, the river deposits sediment in alternating bars that
create riffles.

2. The latter lowers the hydraulic radius for the area and water flows more inefficiently over it.

3. In turn, water flows around them.

4. This creates variations in flow and introduces a side to side motion to the water.

5. Between these shallow riffle areas deeper areas called pools are eroded. At times of higher
flow, water swings around one side of a riffle; undercutting the opposite bank through erosion
processes because of centripetal force creating the meander.5

Description of meander: As water enters the meander it is faster on its outside edge because it is
deeper (it has a larger hydraulic radius) as there is less friction acting upon the water. On the inside
bend of the meander it is shallower (it has a smaller hydraulic radius) so more friction from the rivers
bed and bed load act upon the water, slowing it down. On the outside of the bend a steep river cliff
forms where the processes of hydraulic action and abrasion erode the outside of the bend. As the
velocity slows on the inside of the bend critical deposition velocity is often reached and deposition
occurs. This creates a slip off slope.

Ox-Bow Lakes6: a curved lake formed from a horseshoe bend in a river where the main stream
has cut across the narrow end and no longer flows around the loop of the bend.7

FIGURE 4: OX-BOW LAKE FORMATION8

5
(Gamesby, n.d.)
6
(Rosenberg, 2000)
7
(Oxford University Press, 2014)
8
(Gamesby, n.d.)

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The Formation of Meanders and Ox-Bow Lakes
Varun Tumuluru
Arvian Hesketh
Carlotta Paone
10/02/14
Figure 4 depicts the formation of Ox-bow lakes in a meandering river. Detailed stages are outlined
below:

1. Erosion of the river’s banks causes the river to move laterally across the flood plain.

2. The meander’s neck will become narrow.

3. Two of the outside edges of the meanders are drawn closer together until they meet.

4. The river then takes the fastest route. Depositing material on the insides of the meander loop,
cutting it off from the rest of the river.

5. The result is an ox-bow lake, which will slowly fill with sediment and aquatic plants
overtime. Soil and vegetative matter will fill in the meander, creating an ox-bow scar.

References
Bennett, A. (2010). River Landforms. Retrieved 2014, from Internet Geography:
http://www.geography.learnontheinternet.co.uk/topics/river_middle_course.html

Field Studies Council. (2010). Geography Fieldwork. Retrieved 2014, from Field Studies Council :
Bringing Environmental Undertsanding To All: http://www.geography-
fieldwork.org/riverfieldwork/river_processes/stage1.htm

Gamesby, R. (n.d.). Meanders and Floodplains. Retrieved 2014, from Cool Geography:
http://www.coolgeography.co.uk/GCSE/Year%2010/PhysicalWorld/Middle%20valley/landforms
_of_the_middle_reaches.htm

i-Study. (n.d.). IGCSE Geography. Retrieved 2014, from Rivers: http://www.i-study.co.uk/Rivers.html

Oxford University Press. (2014). Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 2014, from


http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/oxbow-lake

Podbury, M. (2013, June 12). Geographypods : Geography for 2014 & Beyond. Retrieved 2014, from
Revision Revision Revision: Where to Start? - ii. Rivers : Geographypods:
http://www.geographypods.com/terminal-exam-12th-june-2013.html

Rosenberg, M. T. (2000, January 6). About.com : Geography. Retrieved 2014, from About.com:
http://geography.about.com/library/weekly/aa010601a.htm