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Do the Characteristics of a river change downstream?

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Geography Coursework Year's 10 and 11 Do the Characteristics of a river change downstream? Summer 2003 James black Section 1 - Introduction During this investigation, we aim to find out how the River Wharfe's characteristics change from its source to its middle course. Some of these characteristics are of course physical such as the width and depth of the river, the lithology of the bedload and so on, others are affected by human influence such as the type of bedload, and land use either side of the river valley. I have decided to choose the examples of Backstone Beck and the River Wharfe to see if the knowledge that I have gained in lessons concerning the theory of rivers applies to these real life examples. I have chosen to study the River Wharfe because not only is it one of the major rivers in Northern England but also flows through Ilkely, near our school meaning accessibility is not a problem. The site at which we will be conducting our experiments is far away enough from the source that it demonstrates the lower/middle course of the river. It also has little human influence making it relatively natural. I have selected to study Backstone Back since it is a tributary of the River Wharfe and therefore more accessible than the source. It is also a good representation of the upper course and should provide me with good contrasting results. We are not able to study the absolute source of the River Wharfe, as it would prove difficult and expensive to get there. Taking this into consideration Backstone Beck was a good choice as the results we would have gained from each location we deducted to be quite similar. Both Backstone Beck and the River Wharfe flow through Ilkley as is visible on Appendix 6. Ilkley lies in the heart of the Yorkshire dales which in turn is in West Yorkshire. ...read more.


The results show that the deepest point of the river lies dead centre in the middle of the river channel 12 metres away from each bank. The results gained from Backstone Beck show that the deepest part of the stream was only 1 metre away from the east bank at 23 centimetres whereas the shallowest part at 0.5 centimetres was pretty much in the middle at 60 centimetres from the west bank and 80 centimetres from the east bank. Different from what I expected the stream's depth begins at each bank over 10 centimetres deep - 14 at the west bank and 22 at the east bank. There are also other abrupt jumps in depth all the way across the width of the stream, a few being 17.5 centimetres to 10.5 centimetres at 20 centimetres from the west bank and 9.5 centimetres to 1.5 centimetres 90 centimetres from the east bank. The results that show the depth from the River Wharfe show that the deepest part of the river is more than 4 times deeper than the deepest part of Backstone Beck. The shallowest part however is less than that at Backstone Beck by only 0.5 of a centimetre. When reading the results from the River Wharfe it came to me as a surprise to find that the deepest point was in the middle of the river channel as I expected it to be on the outside of the meander curve due to the water being faster flowing there. The sudden rise and falls in the channel at Backstone Beck although unexpected, are justified by the large and angular bedload in the way. In the river's upper stages the river erodes vertically rather than laterally causing the shape of the river channel to become quite deep. This again does not follow as Backstone Beck does not sport any particularly deep parts in its channel. ...read more.


Discharge - Amount of water flowing in a river, measured in cubic metres per second (cumecs.) Distributary - Stream channel in a delta resulting from division of a larger channel. Drainage Basin - Area of land drained by a single river. Estuary - Drowned river mouth in a lowland water. Freeze - thaw - Break up of rocks by alternate freezing and thawing of water trapped in joints of the rock. Hydraulic Power - Process of coastal and river erosion caused by the force of water. Hydrological Cycle - Cycle of water between the land, air and sea. Interlocking Spurs - Spurs of high land which overlap in the upper part of a river valley. Meander - Bend in the middle and lower course of a river. Meander Scar - Dried up oxbow lake. Mouth - Where a river enters the sea or a lake. Ox - bow lake - Semi - circular lake formed by a meander being sealed off from the main course of a river. Physical Weathering - Break up of rock by processes such as freeze - thaw without any changes in the minerals that form the rock. River Cliff - Steep river bank of the outside of a meander. Saltation - Small particles 'jumping' along the river bed. Sedimentary Rock - Rock that usually begins as sediments, usually laid down under water. Slip - off slope - Gentle slope on the inside of a meander. Solution - A form of chemical weathering. Source - The starting point of a river. Suspension - Small particles of clay and silt carried along in a river. Traction - Boulders rolling along the river bed. Tributary - Small river which flows into a larger river. V - shaped valley - River valley in it's upper course, steep - sided and narrow. Velocity - The speed of a river's flow. Volume - The capacity of a river. Watershed - The imaginary line that surrounds a drainage basin. Weathering - Breakdown of surface rock by weather without any movement of the rock. James Black 1 ...read more.

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