Meandering Streams

Nature Notes

These two beautiful photos show a stream meandering through the forest in Miami Whitewater Forest. But what does it mean to say that a stream is “meandering?”

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Many of us may be familiar with this word, knowing that it means that the stream winds back and forth, but have you ever wondered why a stream meanders? As streams erode shoreline from a section, they deposit it in slower moving sections downstream. The scouring on one side of the stream makes new areas for the stream to head, while deposition of sediment in an area can create progressively shallower areas resulting in the stream changing its path over time.

It is a natural process for a stream to change its path with some areas, like Dry Fork Creek at Miami Whitewater Forest, changing quickly over days or weeks, to other changing their path only over the course of decades or centuries. The variation in habitat that can result from meanders is also important for many organisms. Some fish, like catfish, may use the deeper scoured outside bends of streams to hide, while other organisms, such as blue herons may like the inside bend of a stream to hunt for small fish in the shallow water.

In addition to being a great place to find a variety of wildlife, another great aspect of meandering streams is that they make for great views. Meander out to the Great Parks and find your own beautiful streams today!

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Ben Braeutigam, Natural Resources Manager

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