A valley is a low area between hills or mountains often with a river
running through it. In geology, a valley or dale is a depression that
is longer than it is wide. The terms U-shaped and V-shaped are
descriptive terms of geography to characterize the form of valleys.
Most valleys belong to one of these two main types or a mixture of
them, (at least) with respect to the cross section of the slopes or
3 Rift valleys
4 Glacial valleys
4.1 U-shaped or trough valley
4.2 Tunnel valley
4.3 Meltwater valley
5 Transition forms and valley shoulders
6 Hanging valleys
7 Trough-shaped valleys
8 Box valleys
11 Notable examples
11.3 Australia and New Zealand
11.5 North America
11.6 South America
12 See also
14 External links
14.1 Extraterrestrial valleys
A valley in its broadest geographic sense is also known as a dale.
Other terms used for valleys are:
Vale: A valley through which a river runs.
Dell: A small, secluded and often wooded valley.
Glen: A long valley bounded by gently sloped concave sides.
Strath: A wide, flat valley through which a river runs.
Mountain cove: A small valley, closed at one or both ends, in the
central or southern
Appalachian Mountains which sometimes results from
the erosion of a geologic window.
Hollow: A term used sometimes for a small valley surrounded by
mountains or ridges .
cwm (also spelled combe or coombe): A deep, narrow valley.
A steephead valley is a deep, narrow, flat bottomed valley with an
Erosional valley: A valley formed by erosion.
Structural valley: A valley formed by geologic events such as drop
faults or the rise of highlands.
Dry valley: A valley not created by sustained surface water flow.
Longitudinal valley: An elongated valley found between two almost
parallel mountain chains.
Similar geological structures, such as canyons, ravines, gorges,
gullies, chines and kloofs, are not usually referred to as valleys.
River valleys 
For a comprehensive list of river valleys, see Category:
A valley formed by flowing water, or river valley, is usually
V-shaped. The exact shape will depend on the characteristics of the
stream flowing through it. Rivers with steep gradients, as in mountain
ranges, produce steep walls and a bottom. Shallower slopes may produce
broader and gentler valleys. However, in the lowest stretch of a
river, where it approaches its base level, it begins to deposit
sediment and the valley bottom becomes a floodplain.
Some broad V examples are:
North America: Black
Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and others
Austria: narrow passages of upper
Inn valley (Inntal), affluents of
Napf region, Zurich Oberland, Engadin
Germany: affluents to the middle reaches of
Rhine and Mosel
Some of the first human complex societies originated in river valleys,
such as that of the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Indus, Ganges, Yangtze,
Yellow River, Mississippi, and arguably Amazon. In prehistory, the
rivers were used as a source of fresh water and food (fish and game),
as well as a place to wash and a sewer. The proximity of water
moderated temperature extremes and provided a source for irrigation,
stimulating the development of agriculture. Most of the first
civilizations developed from these river valley communities.
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In geography, a vale is a wide river valley, usually with a
particularly wide flood plain or flat valley bottom.
In Southern England, vales commonly occur between the escarpment
slopes of pairs of chalk formations, where the chalk dome has been
eroded, exposing less resistant underlying rock, usually claystone.
Main article: Rift valley
Rift valleys, such as the Albertine Rift, are formed by the expansion
of the Earth's crust due to tectonic activity beneath the Earth's
U-shaped valley on the
Afon Fathew near Dolgoch, Wales
Yosemite Valley from an airplane
A glaciated valley in the
Mount Hood Wilderness
Mount Hood Wilderness showing a
characteristic U-shape, the bottom's rocky 'rubble' accretion and the
There are various forms of valley associated with glaciation that may
be referred to as glacial valleys.
U-shaped or trough valley
Main article: U-shaped valley
A valley carved by glaciers is normally U-shaped and resembles a
trough. This trough valley becomes visible upon the recession of the
glacier that forms it. When the ice recedes or thaws, the valley
remains, often littered with small boulders that were transported
within the ice. Floor gradient does not affect the valley's shape, it
is the glacier's size that does. Continuously flowing glaciers –
especially in the ice age – and large-sized glaciers carve wide,
deep incised valleys, sometimes with valley steps that reflect
differing erosion rates.
Examples of U-shaped valleys are found in every mountainous region
that has experienced glaciation, usually during the
ages. Most present U-shaped valleys started as V-shaped before
glaciation. The glaciers carved it out wider and deeper,
simultaneously changing the shape. This proceeds through the glacial
erosion processes of glaciation and abrasion, which results in large
rocky material (glacial till) being carried in the glacier. A material
called boulder clay is deposited on the floor of the valley. As the
ice melts and retreats, the valley is left with very steep sides and a
wide, flat floor. A river or stream may remain in the valley. This
replaces the original stream or river and is known as a misfit stream
because it is smaller than one would expect given the size of its
Other interesting glacially carved valleys include:
Yosemite Valley (United States)
Side valleys of the Austrian river
Salzach for their parallel
directions and hanging mouths.
Some Scottish glens full with bushes and flowers.
That of the St. Mary
Glacier National Park in Montana, USA.
Main article: Tunnel valley
A tunnel valley is a large, long,
U-shaped valley originally cut under
the glacial ice near the margin of continental ice sheets such as that
now covering Antarctica and formerly covering portions of all
continents during past glacial ages.
A tunnel valley can be up to 100 km (62 mi), 4 km
(2.5 mi) wide, and 400 m (1,300 ft) deep (its depth may
vary along its length).
Tunnel valleys were formed by subglacial erosion by water. They served
as subglacial drainage pathways carrying large volumes of melt water.
Their cross-sections exhibit steep-sided flanks similar to fjord
walls, and their flat bottoms are typical of subglacial glacial
Main article: Urstromtal
In northern Central Europe, the Scandinavian ice sheet during the
various ice ages advanced slightly uphill against the lie of the land.
As a result, its meltwaters flowed parallel to the ice margin to reach
the North Sea basin, forming huge, flat valleys known as
Urstromtäler. Unlike the other forms of glacial valley, these were
formed by glacial meltwaters.
New Zealand's Hooker
Valley at Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, with
Hooker Glacier's terminus at
Hooker Lake in the background
Transition forms and valley shoulders
Look from Paria View to a valley in Bryce Canyon, Utah, with very
Depending on the topography, the rock types and the climate, a lot of
transitional forms between V-, U- and plain valleys exist. Their
bottoms can be broad or narrow, but characteristic is also the type of
valley shoulder. The broader a mountain valley, the lower its
shoulders are located in most cases. An important exception are
canyons where the shoulder almost is near the top of the valley's
slope. In the Alps – e.g. the Tyrolean
Inn valley – the shoulders
are quite low (100–200 meters above the bottom). Many villages are
located here (esp. at the sunny side) because the climate is very
mild: even in winter when the valley's floor is completely filled with
fog, these villages are in sunshine.
In some stress-tectonic regions of the Rockies or the Alps (e.g.
Salzburg) the side valleys are parallel to each other, and
additionally they are hanging. The brooks flow into the river in form
of deep canyons or waterfalls. Usually this fact is the result of a
violent erosion of the former valley shoulders, a special genesis
found also at arêtes and glacial cirques, at every Scottish glen, or
in a northern fjord.
Bridal Veil Falls in
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park flowing from a hanging
A hanging valley is a tributary valley that is higher than the main
valley. They are most commonly associated with U-shaped valleys when a
tributary glacier flows into a glacier of larger volume. The main
glacier erodes a deep
U-shaped valley with nearly vertical sides while
the tributary glacier, with a smaller volume of ice, makes a shallower
U-shaped valley. Since the surfaces of the glaciers were originally at
the same elevation, the shallower valley appears to be 'hanging' above
the main valley. Often, waterfalls form at or near the outlet of the
Hanging valleys also occur in fjord systems under water. The branches
Sognefjord are for instance much shallower than the main fjord. The
Fjærlandsfjord is about 400 meters deep while the main fjord
is 1200 meters nearby. The mouth of Ikjefjord is only 50 meters deep
while the main fjord is around 1300 meters at the same point.
Glaciated terrain is not the only site of hanging streams and valleys.
Hanging valleys are also simply the product of varying rates of
erosion of the main valley and the tributary valleys. The varying
rates of erosion are associated with the composition of the adjacent
rocks in the different valley locations. The tributary valleys are
eroded and deepened by glaciers or erosion at a slower rate than that
of the main valley floor, thus the difference in the two valleys'
depth increases over time. The tributary valley composed of more
resistant rock then hangs over the main valley.
Trough-shaped valleys also form in regions of heavy denudation. By
contrast, with glacial U-shaped valleys, there is less downward and
sideways erosion. The severe slope denudation results in gently
sloping valley sides and their transition to the actual valley bottom
is unclear. Trough-shaped valleys occur mainly in periglacial regions
and in tropical regions of variable wetness. Both climates are
dominated by heavy denudation.
Box valleys have wide, relatively level floors and steep sides. They
are common in periglacial areas and occur in mid-latitudes, but also
occur in tropical and arid regions.
Usually the bottom of a main valley is broad – independent of the U
or V shape. It typically ranges from about one to ten kilometers in
width and is commonly filled with mountain sediments. The shape of the
floor can be rather horizontal, similar to a flat cylinder, or
Side valleys are rather V than U-shaped; near the mouth waterfalls are
possible if it is a hanging valley. The location of the villages
depends on the across-valley profile, on climate and local traditions,
and on the danger of avalanches or landslides. Predominant are places
on terraces or alluvial fans if they exist.
Historic siting of villages within the mainstem valleys, however, have
chiefly considered the potential of flooding.
Wheat in the Hula Valley, Israel
River running through the Kohistan
Valley in Pakistan
A hollow is a small valley or dry stream bed. This term is commonly
used in New England, Appalachia, and the
Missouri to describe such geographic features. In rural areas in
America, it may be pronounced as "holler". Many Appalacian story
tellers will say that a holler is an area where you have to holler to
communicate with your nearest neighbor, meaning how deep in the
country you are.
Valley of Flowers
Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand, India
Valley in West Sumatra, Indonesia
Hell's Gate, British Columbia
A view of Orosí, Costa Rica
Gudbrandsdalen in Eastern
Norway near Gålå
Great Rift Valley
Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings (Egypt)
Valley of Oueme" (Benin)
Bagrot Valley (Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan)
Hunza Valley (Pakistan)
Valley (Western Nepal)
Jordan Rift Valley
Jordan Rift Valley (Jordan - Israel)
Kaghan Valley (Pakistan)
Lidder Valley (India)
Neelum Valley (Pakistan)
Panjshir Valley (Afghanistan)
Parvati Valley (India)
Swat Valley (Pakistan)
Valley of flowers
Valley of flowers (India)
Australia and New Zealand
Barossa Valley (Australia)
Hunter Region (Australia)
Macarthur, New South Wales
Macarthur, New South Wales (Australia)
Hutt Valley (New Zealand)
Strath Taieri (New Zealand)
Dalen, Telemark (Telemark, Norway)
Danube Valley (Eastern Europe)
Glen Coe (Scotland, United Kingdom)
Glen (Scotland, United Kingdom)
Gudbrandsdalen (Oppland, Norway)
Hallingdalen (Buskerud, Norway)
Heddal (Telemark, Norway)
Iron Gate (Romania/Serbia)
Lauterbrunnen Valley (Bern, Switzerland)
Loire Valley with its famous castles (France)
Midt-Telemark (Telemark, Norway)
Nant Ffrancon (Wales, United Kingdom)
Numedalen (Buskerud, Norway)
Østerdalen (Hedmark, Norway)
Rhone Valley from the
Matterhorn to Grenoble and
Romsdalen (Møre Og Romsdal, Norway)
Setesdal (Agder, Norway)
South Wales Valleys
South Wales Valleys (Wales, United Kingdom)
Valley or Upper
Rhine Plain, an old graben system. (France
Death Valley (California)
Canyon (British Columbia)
Fraser Valley (British Columbia)
Canyon (Arizona, United States)
Hell's Gate (British Columbia)
Hudson Valley (New York)
Las Vegas Valley
Las Vegas Valley (Nevada)
Monument Valley (Arizona, Utah)
Okanagan Valley (British Columbia)
Ottawa Valley (Ontario/Quebec)
Rio Grande Valley
Rio Grande Valley (Texas)
Valley (Ontario/Quebec/New York)
San Fernando Valley
San Fernando Valley (California)
Shenandoah Valley (Virginia/West Virginia)
Sonoma Valley, (California)
Toluca Valley (Mexico)
Valley of the Gods
Valley of the Gods (Utah)
Valley of Mexico
Valley of Mexico (Mexico)
Willamette Valley (Oregon)
Aburra Valley (Colombia)
Valley of the Moon (Argentina)
Calchaquí Valleys (Argentina)
Canyon, Grass valley,
Stream channel, Gully, Side valley
List of Lunar valleys
List of lineae on Europa
List of valles on Mars
List of largest rifts and valleys in the Solar System
List of geological features on Titan, (escarpments and ruptures).
^ Valleys on National Geographic
^ "Early History, Santa Clara County". National Park Service. National
Park Service. Retrieved January 16, 2015. Santa Clara
Valley is a
structural valley, created by mountain building, as opposed to an
erosional valley, or one which has undergone the wearing away of the
earth's surface by natural agents.
^ Jørgensen, Flemming; Peter B.E. Sandersen (June 2006). "Buried and
open tunnel valleys in Denmark—erosion beneath multiple ice sheets".
Quaternary Science Reviews. 25 (11–12): 1339–1363.
^ "Glossary of
Glacier Terminology". U.S. Geological Survey. May 28,
2004. Retrieved 2007-05-24.
^ Nesje, A., & Whillans, I. M. (1994).
Erosion of Sognefjord,
Norway. Geomorphology, 9(1), 33-45.
^ "Illustrated Glossary of Alpine Glacial Landforms - Hanging Valley".
.uwsp.edu. Retrieved 2011-10-03.
^ Goudie, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Geomorphology, p. 98.
Valley in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Valleys.
Wikisource has the text of the 1920
Encyclopedia Americana article
NPS.gov, University of Wisconsin
UWSP.edu, Glossary of Alpine Glacial Landforms
"BGU.ac.il" (PDF). , SAR interferometry (analysis of valley forms
in Fig.2 and 6)
Valleys.com, Valleys of the World
ESA image: Vallis Alpes, bisecting the Lunar Alps
Valles Marineris and Ophir Chasma, bilingual website (English and
Drainage system (geomorphology)
Strahler number (stream order)
Bar (river morphology)
River channel migration
Erosion and tectonics