Look at the photo below. Presumably, the river bed is a smooth shape. Therefore, it should be possible to infer the depth of the water from the photo, right?

I am not even an amateur of geo-science.

I am willing to listen to the experts.

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ The barren fringe around those islands makes me think that's a reservoir whose water level has dropped. It's impossible to tell anything without an idea of where it is. $\endgroup$
    – Spencer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 1:37
  • $\begingroup$ Flow speed can be a function of depth after which you can consider sedimentology to get an idea of grain size . This will determine the extent of deposition which decides shape of islands . More : Hjulström curve $\endgroup$
    – shrey
    Dec 29, 2016 at 5:50

1 Answer 1


The island morphology isn't necessarily an indication of the river's depth because the river can be bimodal, with shallows and deeply incised trenches. One thinks of the River Congo which has many islands, but depths of up to 220 metres in its main incised channel. That said, however, if the river has a multi-channel, heavily braided morphology, as in the Waimakariri in New Zealand, or the Brahmaputra in Assam, then one can be fairly certain that the intense sediment load would have filled in any deep pools (excluding local scour in sharp bends, caused by super-elevated flow). In such cases, one may assume a shallow river profile, governed only by storm-flow peak stages. Where there are few or no islands coupled with geomorphologic indications of rapid cut back or rejuvenation, such as the Mekong upstream of its delta, then one may suspect very deep channel profiles. In general though, islands and bank morphology are not reliable indicators of a river's cross section.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.