A river is a stream of water that flows through a "channel" (or passage) in the surface of the ground. The passage where the river flows is called the riverbed and the earth on each side is called a riverbank. A river begins on high ground or in hills or mountains and flows down from the high ground to the lower ground, because of gravity. A river begins as a small stream and gets bigger, the further that it flows.
The water in a river is called "fresh water". It comes from rain or snow and it can usually be drunk safely, unless it has been polluted. The water in a sea cannot be drunk safely because it is "salt water". Both people and animals often live near rivers, because they need water to survive.
The beginning of a river.
The beginning of a river is called its "source" or its "headwaters". The part of the river that is near the "source" is called a "young river". A young river is often in a V-shaped river bed, and flows quickly downhill over stones, and around big rocks. Young rivers often have lots of small waterfalls.
The middle part of a river.
The middle part of a river is called a "mature river". A mature river makes a riverbed that is U-shaped. It might be very deep and run fast. It sweeps over small rocks and bolders, and makes big turns around hills and mountains. It is much wider than a "young river", but not as wide as an "old river". To cross over a mature river, people use bridges. Many cities and towns are built on the banks of mature rivers. Many farms that keep animals such as dairy cows, horses and sheep are found along mature rivers because the animals can drink from the river every day.
The last part of a river.
A river usually ends by flowing into an ocean, a lake or a bigger river. The place where the river flows out into a bigger body of water is called the "mouth" of the river.
As a river flows towards its mouth, the countryside around the river often changes from hilly to flat. As it flows over the flat land the river becomes wider and slower. A wide slow river is called an "old river". An "old river" often floods across the land after there is lots of rain at the "headwaters". An "old river" slowly builds up its banks on either side; the high banks are called "levees". An old river often "meanders" (twists and turns), and sometimes, after a flood, it leaves lakes behind which are called "ox-bows" or "billabongs". Old rivers are the most useful type of river for growing crops. Corn, rice, fruit, cotton, hay, tobacco and sugar are some of the crops that are grown near old rivers.
Where a river flows out to the sea, it sometimes flows very slowly through sandy or muddy land, making lots of little islands as it flows. The main stream of the river gets broken into many parts that spread out into a triangle shape like the Greek letter "Delta". When this happens, it is called the "delta" of the river. Deltas are often places that are not good for towns or farms but are very good for birds and other wildlife. Deltas are often made into wildlife reserves. Not all rivers have deltas. There are famous deltas on the Nile River, the Amazon River, the Mekong River and the Danube River.
Using rivers.
The water in rivers is "fresh water" that has come from rain, snow and from underground streams. It can be drunk safely by people unless it is too dirty because of mud or human pollution. People and animals need fresh water to drink, so they often live by the side of a river.

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