Ponds and Lakes

What Is An Oxbow Lake?

An oxbow is a crescent-shaped lake lying alongside a winding river. The oxbow lake is created over time as erosion and deposits of soil change the river's course. You can see how an oxbow lake takes shape below:

(1) On the inside of the loop, the river travels more slowly leading to deposition of silt.
(2) Meanwhile water on the outside edges tends to flow faster, which erodes the banks making the meander even wider.
(3) Over time the loop of the meander widens until the neck vanishes altogether.
(4) Then the meander is removed from the river's current and the horseshoe shaped oxbow lake is formed.
Without a current to move the water along, sediment builds up along the banks and fills in the lake.
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