Stream gradient refers to the steep of the stream’s channel, or rise over run. It is the upright drop the the stream end a horizontal distance. Friend have faced gradient prior to in Topographic Maps. It have the right to be calculated utilizing the complying with equation:


Let’s calculation the gradient from A to B in figure 5.4 below. The elevation of the stream at A is 980’, and also the elevation of the stream at B is 920’. Use the range bar to calculation the street from A come B. \.

You are watching: The vertical drop of a stream channel

Stream gradients tend to be higher in a stream’s headwaters (where that originates)and lower at their mouth, wherein they discharge into an additional body that water (such as the ocean). Discharge measures streamflow at a offered time and locationand particularly is a measure up of the volume that water pass a particular point in a given duration of time. It is discovered by multiply the area (width multiplied by depth) the the present channel by the velocity of the waterand is regularly in units of cubic feet (or meters) every second. Discharge rises downstream in many rivers, together tributaries join the main channel and include water.


Sediment fill (the quantity of sediment brought by the stream) also changes indigenous headwaters to mouth. At the headwaters, tributaries quickly carry their pack downstream, combining with loads from various other tributaries. The key river then eventually deposits that sediment pack when it reaches base level. Occasionally in this procedure of carrying product downstream, the sediment load is large enough the the water is not capable of sustaining it, for this reason deposition occurs. If a stream becomes overloaded through sediment, braided streams may develop, through a network the intersecting channels that resembles braided hair. Sand and gravel bars are typical in braided streams, which are usual in arid and semiarid regions with high erosion rates. Less generally seen space straight streams, in which channels remain virtually straight, naturally as result of a direct zone of weakness in the underlying rock. Straight networks can also be man-made, in an effort at flood control.

Streams may additionally be meandering, with generally looping meanders the resemble “S”-shaped curves. The fastest water traveling in a meandering currently travelsfrom exterior bend to external bend. This greater velocity and turbulence command to more erosion on the external bend, creating a featured called a cut bank. Erosion on this bank is offset by deposition on the opposite bank of the stream, wherein slower moving water allows sediment to clear up out. These deposits room called allude bars.

As meanders become more complicated, or sinuous, castle may reduced off a meander, discarding the meander to come to be a crescent-shaped oxbow lake. Examine out number 5.6 to watch the development of one oxbow lake.


Even though streams space not living, they carry out go v characteristic changes over time as they adjust the landscape. The ultimate score of a currently is to with the basic level (the short elevation at which the stream can no longer erode that is channeloften a lake or various other stream; ultimate base level is the ocean). If trying to reach this goal, the currently will endure the bike of currently erosion, which consists of these stages:

Youthful (early) phase – these streams space downcutting their channels (vertically eroding); accurate they are picking increase sediment indigenous the bottom the their channels in an initiative to decrease your elevation. The land surface ar will be above sea level, and also these streams form deep V-shaped channels. Maturation (middle) stage – these streams experience both upright (downcutting) and also lateral (meandering) erosion. The land surface is sloped, and also streams start to type floodplains (the flat land around streams that space subject to flooding). Old age (late) stage – these streams focus on lateral erosion and have very complicated meanders and oxbow lakes. The land surface ar is near base level.

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An interruption may take place in this cycle. If a currently suddenly begins to downcut again, if sea level dropped (so basic level dropped) or if the area about it was uplifted (think building mountains), then the stream would come to be rejuvenated. If the rejuvenated stream was in the old period stage, it will start to type a deep V-shaped channel within that facility meandering pattern the it has. This create a practiced stclairdrake.netlogic feature dubbed an entrenched meander (Figure 5.8).