Sedimentary Geology > Visualizations > River Systems: Process and Form

River Systems: Process and Form

Compiled by Jeff Crabaugh at Carleton College (more info) (SERC) and the University of Wyoming

This section provides access to a number of visualizations and supporting material that can be used effectively to teach students about physical processes acting in rivers and their floodplains. Visualizations include simple animations, visual output from numerical models, as well as numerous static illustrations and photos.

For more visual resources, browse the complete set of Visualization Collections.


Meandering River visualization
Terrestrial Animations This set of animations from the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS) group contains 16 movies of various river processes. Movies include meander formation, floodplain evolution, floods, river engineering, landscape evolution, dams and more.

Braided River Videos: In Nature and Lab. (more info) These videos provide a dynamic view of processes in braided rivers, and are part of the large collection of sedimentation videos archived and made available at the website of Paul Heller (University of Wyoming). To access each video: follow main link above, scroll down and click on "Gravelly Braided Stream," "Experimental Braided Stream," "Braided Stream Bars at Loup River," or "Platte River Sedimentation."

Terrace Formation and Evolution. (more info) From the website of William W. Locke [] (Montana State University), animated graphs, photos, and static diagrams with text are used to explain the formation and evolution of terraces on the Madison River in Montana. The river terraces formed below the Madison 'Slide which was triggered by the 1959 Hegben earthquake.

Oxbow Lake Formation (more info) From Wycombe, this Flash slide show renders a detailed five step analysis of oxbow lake formation. Because the whole process of oxbow lake formation is spread over five steps, it is easy to see how an oxbow lake forms.

Meander Migration Animations: Thames Valley, England. (more info) Sequential static diagrams and animations from computer simulations showing erosion, sedimentation, and river channel change through time in the Upper Thames Valley. From the research of Greg Tucker [] (University of Colorado - Boulder), and Gary Lock [] and Quintijn Clevis at The University of Oxford.

Rio Puerco River Meandering (more info) From Exploring Earth, this Flash enabled slide show reveals how the Rio Puerco River's course has changed over time. Unlike the previous animation, which is superimposed on a topographic map, this site chronicles meandering patterns on actual aerial photography.

Floods: NASA Astronaut Photos from Space. Photos from space show vivid details of very recent flooding around the world. The explanatory text, and the 'big picture' inherent to photos from space, depict a clear relationship between river flooding, physiographic context, and societal impact. Follow link and click on a 'flooding' icon on the global map.

Dryland Rivers. (more info) Numerous photos and explanatory text, clearly illustrate the unusual and poorly understood world of dryland rivers. This website, authored by Colin North [] (University of Aberdeen), is serving to clear up long-held misconceptions of dryland rivers and their interaction with aeolian and lacustrine environments that are commonly found flanking these fluvial systems.

Alluvial Fans and Headwaters

Subaerial Debris Flows: In Nature and Lab. (more info) These videos capture debris flows in the act, and are part of the large collection of sedimentation videos archived and made available at the website of Paul Heller (University of Wyoming). To access each video: follow main link above, scroll down and click on "Debris Flow at the Moscardo Torrent (', Arattano and Marchi)," "Subaerial & Subaqueous Debris Flow (Pratson and Marr)," or "Subaerial Debris Flows (Costa) (more info) ."

Landscape Instability in an Experimental Drainage Basin. (more info) Animations of a physical model and associated numerical model investigating the stability of eroding drainage basins under conditions of constant climate and uplift. This work was conducted by Les Hasbargen at the National Center for Earth Surface Dynamics (NCED) (, University of Minnesota.


Deltas: NASA's 'Earth from Space' Astronaut Photos. (more info) A collection of 119 photographs taken from space by NASA astronauts illustrate different river deltas around the world. Follow link, highlight 'DELTAS' under 'Available View', and click on 'Start Search'.

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