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Rivers - Introduction

A river is a permanent watercourse draining an area of land. The land drained by a river and its tributaries is known as a drainage basin or catchment area, and can be of considerable size. The largest drainage basins in the British Isles are those of the Thames, Trent, Severn and Shannon. They are small in world terms when compared with the basins of the Andes, Mississippi, Nile, Danube and the great rivers of Asia.

A drainage basin.

Rivers - alternative terms

Whilst the term river is used worldwide in the English language to describe the feature, there are many regional and national terms to describe smaller watercourses.

Stream is a common term but beck, gill, brook, burn and torrent are others. In areas of chalk and limestone, where streams appear seasonally, the term bourne is sometimes used. In mudflats and saltflats near river mouths the word creek often describes the winding muddy watercourse.

 A small stream.


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