I'm looking for a simple classification of rivers according to their width. In which size categories should I split them? This may usually be done according to catchment area but I'm more interested in the width at one spot of the river.

Ideally this classification would make some sense (e.g. rivers smaller than x meter width are usually not used for ship traffic, rivers larger than x meter are commonly not crossed by bridges, etc.) or is commonly used in official documents (preferably in Europe).

Intuitively I would classified them according to the following but without much reasoning behind it:

  • below 2m (can be jumped)
  • 3-10m (may be used for leisure water sport)
  • 11-25m (smaller commercial vessels?)
  • 26-50m (large commercial vessels?)
  • 51-100m (may still be bridged)
  • over 100m (very large rivers, close to flowing into the sea)
  • 3
    One flaw I see with such a classification system is that some rivers don't have a uniform width. Some may be navigable by large ships in the lower reaches but not in their upper or middle reaches. The other aspect that affects navigability is the depth of the river. Some rivers can be wide but shallow. – Fred Nov 3 '17 at 11:05
  • 1
    I'd say a larger question is how variability in river width is handled. Even the smallest river can become engorged by heavy rainfall and greatly widen. Many rivers, particularly in drier areas are extremely variable, going from nonexistent to extremely wide after a strong monsoon downpour. I presume you're interested in sort of a typical max over like a decade? – JeopardyTempest Nov 3 '17 at 12:08
  • @Fred: And some rivers can be wide and shallow at one point, but deep and narrow a short distance upstream or downstream – jamesqf Nov 3 '17 at 18:58
  • This question is fine here, but the opendata.SE people might find it interesting too. – Barry Carter Nov 4 '17 at 17:10
  • @Fred I'm more interested in the width at a given spot and point in time, not in the variability in width along the river or in different seasons. I have sampling spots at different rivers and it is important for me to classify river width at that very spot, regardless of whether the river may be navigable further up- or downstream. – Stockfisch Nov 5 '17 at 19:11

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.