Meandering Rivers

In contrast to braided rivers, meandering rivers typically only contain one channel that winds its way across the floodplain. As it flows, it deposits sediment on banks that lie on the insides of curves (point bar deposits), and erode the banks on the outside of curves.

Sacramento River, CA.

When the river floods, it deposits fine-grained material on the floodplain. As the floodplain is a lot larger than the channel, deposits of meandering river systems are dominated by fine-grained material; coarse-grained channel deposits tend to be relatively minor.


As the channel migrates, parts of it may become abandoned and left behind as Oxbow Lakes. These lakes have a characteristic horseshoe shape that mimics a river bend. They become sites for deposition of fine-grained lake sediment.

Oxbow lake and the Chippewa River. Eau Claire, Wisconsin.


Besides channels, a characteristic feature of river (fluvial) deposits is cross-bedding.

More photos...

Meandering River in northern Owens Valley, CA

Owens River, CA.  Note the different generations of old meanders.

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