GCSE Revision - Rivers - Drainage Basins & Processes


Rivers begin in upland areas and flow downhill, becoming deeper and wider until they reach the sea. Opposite is a typical diagram of a drainage basin and it shows its main feature.

A drainage basin is part of the water cycle where water is transferred in a continuous cycle between the sea, atmosphere and the land.

As the river flows downstream its characteristics change through the three main sections of
The Upper Course
the Middle Course
The Lower Course

The main features include the following

Source - The beginning of the River
Confluence - Where two rivers meet
Watershed - An area of high land between two drainage basins
Mouth - Where a river flows into a lake or the sea
Tributary - A small river or stream that flows into a larger river
Drainage Basin - The area drained by a river and its tributaries

River Processes

Erosion is the wearing away of the riverbed and banks .It can involve the wearing away of rocks and particles being carried by a river.

  • Hydraulic Action - This is where the force of the water wears away the bed and banks of a river

  • Abrasion or Corrasion - This is where rocks and pebbles that are carried along by the river the banks and bed of a river

  • Attrition - The rocks and pebbles that are transported by a river knock together and become smaller, more rounded and smoother the further down a river you go

  • Solution or Corrosion - The water can dissolve rocks such as limestone and this is transported as a solution
      How a River Transports its load
    (Click on the image for an animation)

The River can also be divided into three main sections

The Upper Course - The Middle Course - The Lower Course seen below and in more detail on their own pages-

Links -  DVD - River Tees
                    - Water goes to ground

Common Questions - Locate features on diagram of river
                                - Explain the main ways rivers erode
                                - Explain how rivers transport material