River Corridors

A natural river is dynamic: it migrates, cutting in some places and filling in others, thereby creating new channels. It is constantly creating and destroying riverine habitats. A river corridor (channel plus flood plain and all landforms within it) is seen as a shifting mosaic of landforms, in dynamic equilibrium: constantly changing but always “looking the same”.

The ability of such a natural river to overflow onto its flood plain during high flow events prevents building up of destructive stream power. Flood plains as such serve as a kind of “pressure release valve”. The flood plains store the spilled water and attenuate the flood peaks downstream while recharging the groundwater.

The opposite applies for rivers that are confined between embankments and thus separated from their floodplains. Such channelization of river corridors leads to higher flow velocities, accentuated flood peaks and eventually to more destructive stream power downstream. 


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Figure: Federal Interagency Stream Restoration Working Group (1998)