An oxbow lake is a uniquely shame lake result from the route of a meandering river. Oxbow lakes are U-shaped or bent bends in a river that are cut off native the main river flow, forming a lake.

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An oxbow likewise refers to the horseshoe-shaped bends in rivers that have the right to eventually end up being oxbow lakes.

Meandering Rivers

Every river includes twists and also turns, or meanders, that reduced through the surrounding landscape in a distinct way. Oxbow bends and, later, oxbow lakes, are formed due to the movement of water.

As water flows down a river, it constantly erodes the sediment that provides up the riverbanks. Riverbanks made of soft sediments, choose sand or clay, can erode quicker than harder rock surfaces, altering the riverbed at a much more rapid rate. (Related: just how Rivers change the Landscape)

The natural flow of water from higher elevations to lower in the form of a river or stream isn’t fixed; different water circulation levels and also sediment deposits change the course of the river over time.

Meandering streams alternative eroding sediments from the external of a bend and also depositing those sediments on the within of the bend. This snaking pattern occurs together the present meanders earlier and forth throughout the flat landscape, continually eroding sediments together it moves. With time this erosive force cuts off the bends in meandering streams indigenous the key body, leaving behind one oxbow lake. Streams meander ~ above the level landscape, Bering floor Bridge nationwide Preserve, 2014. Photo: NPS, public domain.

Flooding and also Earthquakes have the right to Also type Oxbow Lakes

Oxbow lakes can additionally be created by flooding, earthquakes, and also other natural occasions that change the circulation of a river.

(You can also watch this video on YouTube: clock An Oxbow Lake Form: Ucayali River: 1985 – 2013)

River Hydrodynamics

There space a few things to know around the dynamics the a riverbend. The currents in a river have the right to be varied, and debris choose rocks or trees can alter the water flow.

When a river meanders, sediments follow me the bend through the smaller radius (the convex bank) room deposited through the water carrying debris indigenous upstream.

On the other side of the meander is the concave bank, or the reduced bank. On this side, the river is eroding sediment away from the riverbank, and also this lateral erosion can cause the water to undercut the riverbank. This curve has actually a bigger radius 보다 the convex bank does.

Evolution of a meandering stream has the following: (1) present channel within meander belt; (2) development of a virtually closed meander loop; (3) high water flowing across the neck that loop, do a cutoff; (4) deposition the sediment sealing the loop and also creating one oxbow lake. Diagram: Phil Reiker, NPS Geologic resources Division, publicly domain.

The production of bends in the river transforms the pressure gradient the the water. Pressure is highest possible on the exterior of a river’s bend (the concave bank), acquiring lower towards the inside edge (the convex bank). The water operation quickest on the concave side and also slower on the convex bank.

So, top top one next of the flow sediment is gift deposited, if on the other side sediment is being eroded. Quite than flow downstream in ~ a uniform rate, water dynamics occupational to deposit this sediment in various ways.

The primary circulation of a river refers to the mass motion of water in the exact same direction- downstream. The secondary flow is the movement of water that pushes sediment laterally across the river, from the concave financial institution to the convex bank.

Secondary Flow and also Sediment Deposits

The same an additional flow that causes debris to develop up ~ above the convex financial institution works to develop a suggest bar. A allude bar grows right into the river, do the meander more pronounced. As the meander expands, two adjacent concave financial institutions grow closer to one another.

Eventually, continued erosion and also high water occasions like floods or seasonal high water flows can join two concave banks together. The key river channel has changed its course, leave the riverbend reduced off from the main circulation of the river.

Continued sediment deposit can an outcome in this bend truly coming to be cut turn off from the remainder of the river. Once that procedure has occurred, the formation is well-known as an oxbow lake. Rivers v high sinuosity, or several bends, often develop longer oxbow lakes than rivers that naturally flow in straighter lines.

Pawnee Fork Oxbow: The depression bordering this area to be once component of the Pawnee River. Prior to Fort Larned was built, the river naturally changed course. The dried oxbow was used for lumber piles and hay stacks. Photo: Aerial see of ft Larned, comes from the east with the dry oxbow in the foreground, NPS.

Bodies of water that have actually been artificially straightened to alleviate flooding results to cities have the right to leave behind oxbow lakes. Canals, agricultural use, and the reduction of winter snowpack in some areas can likewise alter organic river flows.

While flooding deserve to be detrimental to person infrastructure, the sediments deposited by rivers and also the movement of their meanders create fertile, abundant landscapes that help sequester carbon, provide essential habitat to migrating animals, and also much more.

Other Names for Oxbow Lakes

An oxbow by any kind of other name might be a billabong if she Australian or aresacaif you in south Texas.

Billabongs are an essential water resources for countless animals and also people in the arid regions of Australia, and individual billabongs regularly have names because they could be the only source of water for plenty of miles.

In Texas, the organic seasonal flooding of the Rio Grande pipeline behind oxbow lakes ~ above a constant basis. This lakes are often replenished throughout flood occasions as the Rio Grande changes its circulation every year.

Famous Oxbow Lakes in the USA

Oxbow bend in the fall. The enjoy of mountain Moran deserve to be checked out in the water. Photo: NPS, grand Teton nationwide Park, windy domain.

Oxbow Bend

While plenty of locations have actually their own renowned oxbow bending or lake, probably the most famous is Oxbow bend in cool Teton national Park, Wyoming.

This is an oxbow bend the is house to a range of wildlife and permits for expansive views of the grand Tetons, renowned with photographers during sunrise and also sunset throughout the year.

Largest Oxbow Lake in phibìc America

A true oxbow lake, Lake Chicot in Arkansas is the largest oxbow lake in north America and was created over 600 years earlier from the meandering the the Mississippi River.

This lake is likewise the state the Arkansas’s largest naturally formed lake.(Related: geography of U.S. Lakes)

This photo, taken by an astronaut onboard the International an are Station (ISS), has been annotated to display the current state border (yellow line) between Arkansas and Mississippi. (Note that north is to the left in this image.) The image likewise shows how much the Mississippi River has actually meandered. Lake Chicot, the biggest oxbow lake in phibìc America deserve to be seen. Image: NASA, publicly domain.

Altering Missouri River

There space two says that have had actually their limits formerly dictated by the flow of their greatest rivers: the Missouri River and the Mississippi River.

Carter Lake in Iowa was developed after a flood transformed the flow of the Missouri flow in 1877. A city constructed on that banks, the city the Carter Lake, is currently the only city in Iowa situated on the west side of the Missouri River.

On the Mississippi/Louisiana border, a riverbend previously known together Eagle bend is now Eagle Lake. Eagle Lake was formed after an earthquake transformed the main flow of the Mississippi River.

Now, a piece of Louisiana rests ~ above the eastern side that the Mississippi River thus change.

The Mississippi is residence to much more than a couple of oxbow lakes, as the river channel was regularly artificially straightened to make navigating easier.

Oxbow Lake developed by one Earthquake

Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee was formed by an earthquake that altered the trajectory that the Mississippi River. Reelfoot Lake is considered to be a shallow oxbow lake and also is a sought after location for birdwatchers, together it is a nesting ar for eagles.

Half Moon Lake in Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s fifty percent Moon Lake is one oxbow lake popular among fishermen.

See more: What Color Are Roman Reigns Eyes, Why Does Roman Reigns Wear Colored Contacts

Double Oxbow

Landsat 8 satellite image of the meandering Colorado River. Image: NASA

Canyonlands national Park in Colorado is home to a double oxbow, dubbed The Loop. The Loop is located about 8 kilometers (5 miles) upstream native the confluence that the Green and also Colorado Rivers.

Unlike some of the examples above where the rivers circulation through soft soil, the oxbow in Colorado is one “entrenched meander”, flowing through sedimentary absent canyons through walls that space 150 meter (500 feet) high.

Eventually, the Colorado River will certainly erode the canyon walls to develop a brand-new channel and an oxbow lake.

Green flow Oxbow, Canyonlands nationwide Park. Photo: NPS/Neal Herbert


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