A river’s purpose is to flow ever downward until it meets the sea, nourishing life along its banks and in its shallow depths, as it journeys onward. A river can be defined by nature, or by the people who walk its edge, wade its waters, play in its natural pools, or raft its white water rapids. Rivers remind us to keep flowing until we reach our goals. It reminds us to go over, or under, or around what life throws into our path, and never let obstacles stop us. Rivers remind us that nothing stays the same–it’s always changing. You live, you learn, you grow with the changes as life sweeps you through the years. Rivers inspire us and bring us peace in an often chaotic world.
At first glance, a river seems quiet and uncomplicated, but it’s teeming with various aspects that go into defining a river. Carolina Outfitters white water rafting has put together a list of river terminology and their meanings. Read, learn, then come back to BOOK a trip on the wild and beautiful Nantahala River near Bryson City, NC and see just how awesome it is to engage with a river. We bet you’ll leave with a feeling of well-being and time well-spent.
Alluvion – land formed along the river by built-up rocks and sand.
Banks – a ridge of earth on either side of a river.
Brackish – when salt water mixes with river water creating more salinity in freshwater.
Channel – where river water is at its deepest with few if any obstacles.
Delta – formed when the river reaches a large body of water and is no longer channeled.
Effluent – waste material dumped into the river by industrial plants.
Meander – the bending and curving of a river as the water cuts through the landscape seeking the path of least resistance.
Headwater – the source of a river, which can have many sources, and are the smallest, but makes up most of the miles of rivers.
Estuary – when fresh water from rivers meets the sea–a transition from land to sea.
Mouth – where the river flows into a larger body of water such as a lake.
Oxbow Lake – a u-shaped portion of the river where it’s cutoff creating a pool of water.
Rill – a small stream or watercourse.
Riparian or Riverine – relating to or located on the banks of a river, such as a settlement.
River Bed – the bottom of a river when it’s dry.
Runoff – occurs when there is more water (such as a snowmelt) than the earth can absorb.
Salinity – refers to how much salt is mixed in water when the river and the sea meet.
Sediment – forms the ecosystem and habitats of rivers by depositing rocks, pebbles, and sand on the bank as the river slows down.
Silt – rock and mineral deposits left by dust-like material in water, wind, and ice. The sediment is larger than clay, but smaller than sand.
Siltation – when rivers and lakes or other bodies of water get clogged with sediment.
Trunk – the main downstream segment of a river.
Tributary – a freshwater stream that feeds into a river.
Source – the starting point of a river. It can be from snowmelt or rainfall or a spring bubbling up from the earth. The source of a river is also called the headway.
Water cycle – water that moves across the surface, infiltrates the ground, flows through aquifers, and returns to the surface as discharge into rivers.
Waterfall – where water cascades over rock and land formations that plunge downward into a river or lake.
Watershed – land or ridges that are separated by water flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas.
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.” ― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
“I thought, how lovely and how strange a river is. A river is a river, always there, and yet the water flowing through it is never the same water and is never still. It’s always changing and is always on the move. And over time the river itself changes too. It widens and deepens as it rubs and scours, gnaws and kneads, eats and bores its way through the land.” –Aidan Chambers
BOOK a trip on the scenic family-friendly Nantahala River with Carolina Outfitters.