Wiggly Rivers


Wiggly river near barrow

by Christian Sampson

Well we have had our very first day in Barrow Alaska and it has been a busy one! We spent all day unpacking all of the tools and equipment we will need on the ice both to keep warm and to make our measurements.  With all that work we were all very hungry by the end of the day, so we went out to a place called Arctic Pizza here in Barrow and ate lots of pizza and had tons of fun!  We also had fun on the flight from Fairbanks to Barrow watching all of the scenery go by out the windows of the plane. Alaska is  beautiful with lots of different types of places and geology.

One of my favorite things that we saw when flying to Barrow are what are called meandering streams. Meandering streams are wiggly rivers  that sort of zig zag  and curve back and fourth and all over the place as they flow. Sometimes they can even curve so much that they cut their own flow off and have to find a new path, leaving behind what is called an ox-bow lake.

A wiggly (meanderaing) river from our flight.

Why do they wiggle?  Well as streams and rivers flow they carry lots of big and little rocks down hill with the water in the current.  Sometimes a river will flow through a place with something that might slow it down like vegetation. When this happens some of the rocks slow down and even stop because the river is no longer moving fast enough to carry the heavier rocks along. This makes a kind of pile of rocks in the way of the river. Eventually this pile can get so big that it diverts the river and the water turns to flow more easily.


Once a river starts to turn it can start to meander. The water at the inside of the turn moves slower and deposits even more rocks on the pile while the water on the outside of the turn is moving faster and erodes the ground making the turn even bigger!


Eventually This turn becomes so sharp that the river almost flows back on itself this is when it cuts itself off and finds a new path leaving behind what is called an ox-bow lake.


Can you see any ox bow lakes in the picture we took below?

Hint: Look in the top right corner!

To see more pictures of the flight click  below.



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