Rivers can run for many hundreds of miles. The longest river in the world is the Nile in Africa. It is 6,700km long. The longest river in Britain is the River Severn, which is 354km long.

How does a river start?

Most rivers begin their life high up in the mountains and hills of the world. There are heavy downpours of rain here and perhaps melting snow. Some of the rain soaks into the ground and the rest runs over the surface, collects in pools, then trickles downhill with the force of gravity. Small streams are formed, which get bigger as they collect more water and join up with other streams. The ever-increasing stream wears away the ground as it goes, carving out valleys and shaping the landscape. The speed of the flowing water and the hardness of the ground have an effect on the shape created. The ‘wearing away’ is called erosion.

A mountain stream is sometimes called a youthful river and it is fast flowing, making deep valleys with steep sides. Once it begins to cut a valley it is trapped in it and will continue to carve out the same valley for perhaps thousands of years. As it tumbles downhill, the stream collects and carries rocks, stones and pebbles along with it. Progressing on its journey towards the sea, it collects more and more water until it is big enough to be called a river. Eventually, the land becomes flatter and the water flow slows down, causing the river to drop its stones and pebbles onto the river bed. This is called deposition. As an ‘old river’ meanders slowly through flat land (a bend in a river is called a meander), it is carrying only mud.

Read More: Where does a river end?

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