Tributary

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Looking upstream, the Shenandoah River (left) is a tributary of the larger Potomac River (right) Aerial Photo of Harpers Ferry (15646790473).jpg
Looking upstream, the Shenandoah River (left) is a tributary of the larger Potomac River (right)

A tributary [1] or affluent [2] is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem (or parent) river or a lake. [3] A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. [4] Tributaries and the main stem river drain the surrounding drainage basin of its surface water and groundwater, leading the water out into an ocean.

Contents

A confluence, where two or more bodies of water meet together, usually refers to the joining of tributaries.

The opposite to a tributary is a distributary, a river or stream that branches off from and flows away from the main stream. [5] Distributaries are most often found in river deltas.

Terminology

Looking downstream, the Shenandoah River (bottom right) meets the Potomac River which flows from bottom left to top right, so the Shenandoah is a right tributary of the Potomac, not a left tributary Harpers Ferry WV aerial.jpg
Looking downstream, the Shenandoah River (bottom right) meets the Potomac River which flows from bottom left to top right, so the Shenandoah is a right tributary of the Potomac, not a left tributary

"Right tributary" and "left tributary" (or "right-bank tributary" and "left-bank tributary") are terms stating the orientation of the tributary relative to the flow of the main stem river. These terms are defined from the perspective of looking downstream (in the direction the water current of the main stem is going). [6]

An "early tributary" is a tributary that joins the main stem river closer to the main river's source than its end. Similarly, a "late tributary" joins the main river much further downstream, closer to the main river's end point.

In the United States, where tributaries sometimes have the same name as the river into which they feed, they are called forks. These are typically designated by compass direction. For example, the American River in California receives flow from its North, Middle, and South forks. The Chicago River's North Branch has the East, West, and Middle Fork; the South Branch has its South Fork, and used to have a West Fork as well (now filled in).

Forks are sometimes designated as right or left. Here, the "handedness" is from the point of view of an observer facing upstream. For instance, Steer Creek has a left tributary which is called Right Fork Steer Creek.

Ordering and enumeration

Tributaries are sometimes listed starting with those nearest to the source of the river and ending with those nearest to the mouth of the river. The Strahler Stream Order examines the arrangement of tributaries in a hierarchy of first, second, third, and higher orders, with the first-order tributary being typically the least in size. For example, a second-order tributary would be the result of two or more first-order tributaries combining to form the second-order tributary. [6]

Another method is to list tributaries from mouth to source, in the form of a tree structure, stored as a tree data structure.[ citation needed ]

See also

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Confluence Meeting of two or more bodies of flowing water

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Kaweah River

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River bifurcation

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Crooked River (Oregon)

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Drainage system (geomorphology)

In geomorphology, drainage systems, also known as river systems, are the patterns formed by the streams, rivers, and lakes in a particular drainage basin. They are governed by the topography of the land, whether a particular region is dominated by hard or soft rocks, and the gradient of the land. Geomorphologists and hydrologists often view streams as part of drainage basins. This is the topographic region from which a stream receives runoff, throughflow, and its saturated equivalent, groundwater flow. The number, size, and shape of the drainage basins varies and the larger and more detailed the topographic map, the more information is available.

Stream Body of surface water flowing down a channel

A stream is a body of water with surface water flowing within the bed and banks of a channel. The flow of a stream is controlled by three inputs - surface water, subsurface water and groundwater. The surface and subsurface water are highly variable between periods of rainfall. Groundwater, on the other hand, has a relatively constant input and is controlled more by long-term patterns of precipitation. The stream encompasses surface, subsurface and groundwater fluxes that respond to geological, geomorphological, hydrological and biotic controls.

River Natural flowing watercourse

A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of water. Small rivers can be referred to using names such as stream, creek, brook, rivulet, and rill. There are no official definitions for the generic term river as applied to geographic features, although in some countries or communities a stream is defined by its size. Many names for small rivers are specific to geographic location; examples are "run" in some parts of the United States, "burn" in Scotland and northeast England, and "beck" in northern England. Sometimes a river is defined as being larger than a creek, but not always: the language is vague.

Hoquiam River

The Hoquiam River is a stream in the U.S. state of Washington. It has three main tributaries, the East Fork, West Fork, and Middle Fork Hoquiam Rivers. The main stem Hoquiam River is formed by the confluence of the West and East Forks. The Middle Fork is a tributary of the West Fork.

References

  1. "tributary". PhysicalGeography.net, Michael Pidwirny & Scott Jones, 2009. Viewed 17 September 2012.
  2. "affluent". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. Viewed 30 Sep. 2008.
  3. "Definition of TRIBUTARY". Merriam-Webster .
  4. Krebs, Robert E. (2003). The Basics of Earth Science. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN   978-0-313-31930-3.
  5. "opposite to a tributary". PhysicalGeography.net, Michael Pidwirny & Scott Jones, 2009. Viewed 17 September 2012.
  6. 1 2 Bisson, Peter and Wondzell, Steven. “Olympic Experimental State Forest Synthesis of Riparian Research and Monitoring”, United States Forest Service, p. 15 (December 1, 2009).