distributary
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A distributary, or a distributary channel, is a
stream A stream is a continuous body of water, body of surface water Current (stream), flowing within the stream bed, bed and bank (geography), banks of a channel (geography), channel. Depending on its location or certain characteristics, a stream ...
that branches off and flows away from a main stream channel. Distributaries are a common feature of river deltas. The phenomenon is known as river bifurcation. The opposite of a distributary is a
tributary A tributary, or affluent, is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem (or parent) river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. Tributaries and the main stem river drain the surrounding drainage b ...
, which flows ''towards'' and joins another stream. Distributaries are often found where a stream approaches a
lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a Depression (geology), basin, surrounded by land, and distinct from any river or other outlet that serves to feed or drain the lake. Lakes lie on land and are not part of the World Ocean, oce ...
or an ocean. They can also occur inland, on alluvial fans, or where a tributary stream bifurcates as it nears its confluence with a larger stream. In some cases, a minor distributary can divert so much water from the main channel that it can later become the main route.


Related terms

Common terms to name individual river distributaries in English-speaking countries are ''arm'' and ''channel''. These terms may refer to a distributary that does not rejoin the channel from which it has branched (e.g., the North, Middle, and South Arms of the
Fraser River The Fraser River is the longest river within British Columbia, Canada, rising at Fraser Pass near Blackrock Mountain (Canada), Blackrock Mountain in the Rocky Mountains and flowing for , into the Strait of Georgia just south of the City of Van ...
, or the West Channel of the Mackenzie River), or to one that does (e.g. Annacis Channel and Annieville Channel of the
Fraser River The Fraser River is the longest river within British Columbia, Canada, rising at Fraser Pass near Blackrock Mountain (Canada), Blackrock Mountain in the Rocky Mountains and flowing for , into the Strait of Georgia just south of the City of Van ...
, separated by Annacis Island). In Australia, the term '' anabranch'' is used to refer to a distributary that diverts from the main course of the river and rejoins it later. In
North America North America is a continent in the Northern Hemisphere and almost entirely within the Western Hemisphere. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the southeast by South America and the Car ...
an anabranching river is called a ''braided stream''.


North America

In Louisiana, the Atchafalaya River is an important distributary of the Mississippi River. Because the Atchafalaya takes a steeper route to the
Gulf of Mexico The Gulf of Mexico ( es, Golfo de México) is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by the North American continent. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United ...
than does the Mississippi, over several decades the Atchafalaya has captured more and more of the Mississippi's flow, after the Mississippi meandered into the Red River of the South. The Old River Control Structure, a dam which regulates the outflow from the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya, was completed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1963. The dam is intended to prevent the Atchafalaya from capturing the main flow of the Mississippi and stranding the ports of Baton Rouge and
New Orleans New Orleans ( , ,New Orleans
Merriam-Webster.
; french: La Nouvelle-Orléans , es, Nuev ...
. John McPhee, The Control of Nature In
British Columbia British Columbia (commonly abbreviated as BC) is the westernmost Provinces and territories of Canada, province of Canada, situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains. It has a diverse geography, with rugged landscapes that include ...
, Canada, the
Fraser River The Fraser River is the longest river within British Columbia, Canada, rising at Fraser Pass near Blackrock Mountain (Canada), Blackrock Mountain in the Rocky Mountains and flowing for , into the Strait of Georgia just south of the City of Van ...
has numerous sloughs and side-channels which may be defined as distributaries. This river's final stretch has three main distributaries: the North Arm and the South Arm, and a few smaller ones adjoining them. Examples of inland distributaries: * Teton River—a tributary of Henrys Fork in Idaho—splits into two distributary channels, the North Fork and South Fork, which join Henrys Fork miles apart. * Parting of the Waters National Landmark within Wyoming's Teton Wilderness on the Continental Divide where North Two Ocean Creek splits into two distributaries, Pacific Creek and Atlantic Creek, which ultimately flow into their respective oceans. * Kings River (California) has deposited a large alluvial fan at the transition from its canyon in the Sierra Nevada mountains to the flat Central Valley. Distributaries flow north into the Pacific Ocean via the San Joaquin River and south into an endorheic basin surrounding Tulare Lake. * The Qu'Appelle River, in
Saskatchewan Saskatchewan ( ; ) is a Provinces and territories of Canada, province in Western Canada, western Canada, bordered on the west by Alberta, on the north by the Northwest Territories, on the east by Manitoba, to the northeast by Nunavut, and on t ...
and
Manitoba Manitoba ( ) is a Provinces and territories of Canada, province of Canada at the Centre of Canada, longitudinal centre of the country. It is Canada's Population of Canada by province and territory, fifth-most populous province, with a population o ...
, is a distributary of the South Saskatchewan River. Its flow is controlled by the Qu'Appelle River Dam. This dam forms the southern arm of Lake Diefenbaker.


South America

The Casiquiare canal is an inland distributary of the upper Orinoco, which flows southward into the Rio Negro, forming a unique natural
canal Canals or artificial waterways are waterways or engineered channels built for drainage management (e.g. flood control and irrigation) or for conveyancing water transport vehicles (e.g. water taxi). They carry free, calm surface flo ...
between the Orinoco and Amazon river systems. It is the largest river on the planet that links two major river systems.


Europe

*The IJssel, the Waal and the Nederrijn (Lower Rhine) are the three principal distributaries of the
Rhine The Rhine ; french: Rhin ; nl, Rijn ; wa, Rén ; li, Rien; rm, label=Sursilvan, Rein, rm, label=Sutsilvan and Surmiran, Ragn, rm, label=Rumantsch Grischun, Vallader and Puter, Rain; it, Reno ; gsw, Rhi(n), including in Alsatian dialect, Al ...
. These are formed by two separate bifurcations within the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta. *The Akhtuba River is a major distributary of the Volga. The bifurcation occurs close to, but before, the Volga Delta. * The Tärendö River in northern
Sweden Sweden, formally the Kingdom of Sweden,The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names states that the country's formal name is the Kingdom of SwedenUNGEGN World Geographical Names, Sweden./ref> is a Nordic countries, Nordic c ...
is an inland distributary, far from the mouth of the river. It begins at the Torne River and ends at the Kalix River. * The Little Danube in
Slovakia Slovakia (; sk, Slovensko ), officially the Slovak Republic ( sk, Slovenská republika, links=no ), is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to the s ...
branches off from the
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is a river that was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire and today connects 10 European countries, running through their territories or being a border. Originating in Germany, the Danube flows southeast for , pa ...
near Bratislava, and flows into the Vah before rejoining the main river near Komárno. The area in the middle is the largest freshwater island in Europe. * The Abbey River, Limerick, in
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean, in Northwestern Europe, north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Grea ...
is a distributary arm of the River Shannon. It rejoins the Shannon to form an island upon which King John's Castle is built.


Asia


Eastern Asia

The Huai River in China splits into three streams. The main stream passes through the Sanhe Sluice, goes out of the Sanhe river, and enters the
Yangtze River The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ; ) is the longest list of rivers of Asia, river in Asia, the list of rivers by length, third-longest in the world, and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in th ...
through Baoying Lake and Gaoyou Lake. On the east bank of Hongze Lake, another stream goes out of Gaoliangjian Gate and enters the Yellow Sea at the
port A port is a maritime law, maritime facility comprising one or more Wharf, wharves or loading areas, where ships load and discharge Affreightment, cargo and passengers. Although usually situated on a sea coast or estuary, ports can a ...
of Bidan through Subei Guan'gai Zongqu, the main
irrigation Irrigation (also referred to as watering) is the practice of applying controlled amounts of water to land to help grow Crop, crops, Landscape plant, landscape plants, and Lawn, lawns. Irrigation has been a key aspect of agriculture for over 5,00 ...
channel of Northern
Jiangsu Jiangsu (; ; pinyin: Jiāngsū, Postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Kiangsu or Chiangsu) is an Eastern China, eastern coastal Provinces of the People's Republic of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. It is o ...
); its total length is 168 kilometers. The third stream leaves the Erhe lock on the northeast bank of Hongze Lake, passes the Huaishuhe River to the north of Lianyungang city, and flows into Haizhou Bay through the Hongkou.


Indian Subcontinent

* Kollidam River is a distributary of the Kaveri River. *
Himalaya The Himalayas, or Himalaya (; ; ), is a mountain range in Asia, separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. The range has some of the planet's highest peaks, including the very highest, Mount Everest ...
n rivers including Ganges, Brahmaputra and Indus plus many tributaries form inland distributaries over vast alluvial fans as they transition from the mountain region to the flat Indo-Gangetic Plain. These areas are highly flood-prone, for example the 2008 Bihar flood on the Kosi River. * Padma River is the main distributary of the Ganges in
Bangladesh Bangladesh (}, ), officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh, is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, eighth-most populous country in the world, with a population exceeding 165 million pe ...
. * Hoogli River is a Ganges distributary that flows through
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...
, whereas most of the Ganges- Brahmaputra complex enters the sea through
Bangladesh Bangladesh (}, ), officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh, is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, eighth-most populous country in the world, with a population exceeding 165 million pe ...
. * Nara River is a distributary of the Indus River.


Africa

* The Nile River has two distributaries, the Rosetta and the Damietta branches. According to Pliny the Elder it had in ancient times seven distributaries (east to west): ** The Pelusiac ** The Tanitic ** The Mendesian ** The Phatnitic ** The Sebennytic ** The Bolbitine ** The Canopic :See History of the Nile Delta. * The Okavango River ends in many distributaries in a large inland delta called the Okavango Delta. It is an example of distributaries that do not flow into any other body of water.


Oceania


Australia

A number of the rivers that flow inland from Australia's Great Dividing Range form distributaries, most of which flow only intermittently during times of high river levels and end in shallow lakes or simply peter out in the deserts. Yarriambiack Creek, which flows from the Wimmera River into Lake Coorong, and Tyrrell Creek, which flows from the Avoca River into Lake Tyrrell, are two distributaries in Victoria. The Narran River flows from the Balonne River in Queensland into Narran Lake in
New South Wales ) , nickname = , image_map = New South Wales in Australia.svg , map_caption = Location of New South Wales in AustraliaCoordinates: , subdivision_type = Country , subdivision_name = Australia , established_title = Before federation , es ...
.


Papua New Guinea

Many of Papua New Guinea's major rivers flow into the Gulf of Papua through marshy, low-lying country, allowing for wide, many-branched deltas. These include the Fly River, which splits into three major and several minor rivers close to its mouth. The Bamu River splits into several channels close to its mouth, among them the ''Bebea'', ''Bina'', ''Dibiri'', and ''Aramia''. The Kikori River also splits into a multitude of channels as it crosses the plains close to the Gulf of Papua. The Purari River splits into three major channels as it approaches its mouth.


New Zealand

New Zealand's second-longest river, the Clutha River, splits into two arms, the '' Matau'' and the '' Koua'', some 10 kilometres from the South Island's Pacific Coast. A large island, Inch Clutha, lies between the two arms. Many of the rivers crossing the Canterbury Plains in the central South Island are braided rivers, and several of these split into separate branches before reaching the coast. Notable among these is the Rangitata River, the two arms of which are separated by the low-lying Rangitata Island.


See also

*
Tributary A tributary, or affluent, is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem (or parent) river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. Tributaries and the main stem river drain the surrounding drainage b ...


References


Citations

* {{Rivers, streams and springs * River morphology ja:流路形状#派川