28 March 2011

Oxbow lake pending

For reasons I don't understand, I'm fascinated by oxbow lakes.  The image above nicely shows the process; the river (presumably glacial meltwater, judging by the color) enters at lower right, curls off the frame at the top, and exits lower left.  The transported solids carve away at the outer walls of the curves (and get deposited on the insides of the curves).  In another few decades, that narrow isthmus will be breached, the water will flow directly across, and the curve at the top will transform from river segment to lake, and later eventually to marsh and then bog and then field and finally woods.

For an impressive depiction of the complexity of oxbows in a floodplain, see Radical Cartography.

Photo credit Cameron Davidson.


  1. No need to wait decades, that isthmus could be breached at any time. All it would take is a good rainstorm upstream.

  2. I had to look up oxbaw in the dictionary... In Australia, we call them billabongs!

    Both pretty words for a pretty thing

  3. One of my favorite past times when on an airline flight is looking at the Oxbow lakes.
    They seem to form a lot more where the land is relatively flat, and gets more rain,,, East Texas more than West Texas.

  4. Yup. The flatness is a prerequisite; on sharply-sloped land the water can flow straight down.


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