×

More help, more resources, more learning.

KidsGeo.com will be joining the Education.com family!

We're so excited to continue to grow and support the parents and teachers championing children's education.
Read press release
KidsKnowIt Network is now part of Education.com!

Valleys and Interfluves

Valleys and interfluves are two kinds of land masses. A valley is a depression in the Earth’s surface. An interfluve is a higher region of land between two valleys.

An image of a valley in shadow while the sun shines on the top of the valley sides.

This valley in Zion National Park is a river valley.

What is a valley?

Valleys are depressions in the Earth’s surface. They form through erosion, shifts in tectonic plates, or the movement of glaciers. The type of geological process defines the kind of valley created. There are three main types of valleys.
 
 

River Valley

The river valley is a valley created by river or stream erosion. Over many thousands of years, the river water erodes the land and carves the valley. This type of valley is sometimes called a V-shaped valley. The valley walls rise up from the river on the valley floor. If you think of the river as the bottom point of the letter V, you can understand where this name comes from.

An image of a V-shaped valley with a river at the bottom.

Rivers carve valleys through thousands of years of erosion.

Glacier Valley

As you may have guessed, the glacier valley is a valley created by glaciers. Glaciers are large, heavy ice formations. As gravity pulls the glacier down, the glacier carves the valley. This type of valley is sometimes called a U-shaped valley. If you look at the valley’s profile, it looks like the letter U. The valley walls have more curve at their base. The valley floor of a glacier valley is broader and flatter. 

An image of Glacier Park with a valley dug out by a moving glacier.

Glacier valleys have a more rounded, U-shaped profile than the river valleys.

Rift Valley

Rift valleys form when there is a shift in tectonic plates. A rift occurs when the tectonic plates move apart. Another cool thing about rift valleys is that they occur both on land and at the bottom of the ocean. 
 
 
<The most well-known rift valley on land is the Great Rift Valley in Africa.>
 

Parts of a valley

 Valleys have three main parts:
 
  • Head – This is where the valley begins. Because of gravity, valleys often begin in the mountains. The water or glacier gravitates from the high land of the mountains to lower land below.
 
  • Sides – These are the walls of the valley. The sides are where the land rises up on either side of the valley. A valley cannot exist without its sides.
 
  • Floor – The floor is the base of the valley. It is where the valley is most flat. If it is a river valley, the river flows along the floor.
 

What is an interfluve? 

An interfluve is the higher region of land between valleys. They occur as part of the same drainage system.
 

Valley vs. Basin

You may think that a valley is just like a basin, but they are different in a major way. Basins may contain a body of water such as a lake but there is no outlet for the water. However, valleys have an outlet that leads the river water to another river or the ocean.