What Parts Make Up a River?

The United States has more than 250,000 rivers — a total of 3.5 million miles. No two of these rivers are the same. Each river is unique to its landscape, winding through low foothills and valleys, rushing clear and cold from mountain forests, or sweeping warm and muddy down desert canyons. No matter how different our rivers are, however, they share some basic river anatomy features (click image to enlarge).

river diagram showing the components of a river, including the headwaters, tributary, delta, channel, floodplain, river bank, wetlands, and flow

Click to enlarge image