This chapter examines the river systems in America. The diversity of river forms present in the United States and North America reflects the patterns of geology and climate present across the continent. The continental United States is drained by five major river systems—the St. Lawrence, the Mississippi, the Columbia, the Colorado, and the Rio Grande—and by numerous smaller river networks. The movement of water and sediment from the continent to the oceans is not evenly distributed among these rivers. Much of the water comes from the wetter regions, and the sediment from the drier regions. The combinations of geology and climate produce six distinctive “river regions” in the United States. River form, flow characteristics, and sediment transport are broadly similar within each region.
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