Every river or stream has a source which is known as the headwaters region. This part literally feeds the river with its water. In olden times people have had mystical associations with headwaters as these have led to rivers that in turn have led to the development of different communities. Hence, headwaters are considered to be a source of life and literally provide the water source for different rivers and streams.

If you wish to discover the headwaters of a river or stream you need to imagine walking or tracing the course of a river or stream by its banks till it vanishes. This furthest point along a river or stream is considered the headwaters. It is also considered the point from which water flows into a watershed. This place might not contain water always as the location often changes over time. Other definitions state that headwaters are furthest points from where water is supplied; usually static and stable water bodies.


Rivers usually originate from the marshlands. There might be upwelling or springs from where a large marsh is formed. The other case is that of the glacial headwaters where glaciers runoff from the ice. One of the concerns of global warming is that the shrinkage of glaciers across the world will result in streams and rivers losing their water supplies.  

Headwaters are not the only source of water for rivers as most are joined by tributaries which come together and join rivers in different stages. Headwaters are often dispersed over a wide region. If you wish to find the source of a river, it can be like an adventure trip. You could plan hikes or walking trips which can have the fun goal of discovering the headwater. Often the way up to a river’s course might lead to a marsh. This makes it difficult to continue as there might be woodlands and slushy areas to wade through.

Frost Fairs On The River Thames

Among the interesting facts that exist about rivers around the world, River Thames frost fairs are a unique tradition that was associated with river Thames. This traditional festival started from 1608 and continued till 1814. As the river totally froze during winter, it allowed people to walk as well as drive on the river. Many authors have written accounts about the Frost fairs and events that were held during these times. They are also an integral part of historical fiction as they are memorable events. There have been attempts to stage replicas of these fairs, but there is no more a frozen river to access, the original flair of the fairs is gone.

The period when Frost fairs were held, Britain had a climate that was colder than what it is currently. This period is even referred to Little Ice Age in the history of Europe. This period was characterized by cooler temperatures. At such a time the river Thames, which flowed across the city, repeatedly became frozen; hard freezes of the river were documented in early times as well, such as in 250 CE when one could sled, drive and walk over the frozen water. There are accounts of Elizabeth I and Henry VIII enjoying trips along the frozen river where they would ride sleighs or walk on ice. The conditions of the river were also markedly different in early times. The banks of the river were wider at such a time. That made the water flow sluggish. This, in turn, promoted rapid freezing of the waters. With different water levels and rate of flow of the water, the river froze completely in olden times more often and more completely.

Frost Fairs On The River Thames

The first fair that was recorded was in the year 1608. This was a small event where people could buy beverages and food as well as play games. The variety of stalls was less initially. Later on, however, the fair became a bigger event, especially the one that was held in 1683 or 1684. It lasted for several months and there were different kinds of diversions. However, the fairs did lead to pollution as open fires were arranged on the river bed. Festivals were held on the ice as well. These were ways the afternoons were whiled away by the English people. Even nobles and Kings visited the fair along with less fortunate people of the society. There were souvenirs that were available for purchase to commemorate attendance to the fair.

What stopped these unique fairs? After 1814 the Thames failed to freeze completely. As a result, permits could not be issued to allow fairs to be held. That has been the state of affairs since then and it is unlikely that the Frost Fairs will make a comeback. For most people who were born in the after eras, the Frost fairs remain stories that they hear and read about. Even though replicas of such fairs have been attempted, they cannot be held on the river anymore as it does not freeze anymore completely.

River Dolphins

Did you know that dolphins are found in river waters as well? There are different names by which the river dolphin is known by such as the pink porpoise, the wee quacker, boto and others like the Amazon River dolphin. This mammal is usually pink in color and is found in the Orinoco and Amazon rivers. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has this mammal listed as one of the species that might become extinct soon as its natural habitats change.

Features of the pink river dolphin are distinct. It has a flexible body along with a straight and long beak that has many teeth. Their diet consists of fish that are local to the waters, turtles, and crab. Their flippers are exceptionally large as compared to their body size. The flippers curve back to the bodies. Their sounds are clicks and whistles of high frequency which are difficult to hear and recorded only by researchers who have gotten lucky to hear them.

Gestation of the pink river dolphin is about eleven months, which results in the birth of a single calf. The babies when formed are dark gray in color and their body colors lighten as they mature. Grown up river dolphins are usually grayish pink or could be bright pink as well. Dolphins usually live in groups that comprise of five or eight animals in total. They are usually led by the largest or the eldest male in the group. Some dolphins seem to prefer leading solitary lives and they come together only for breeding.

There are different kinds of tales about these river creatures, especially among communities that live around them. A popular legend is that boto is a shape shifter. They can turn into a handsome young man at night and make the local females fall madly in love with them. They return to the water as a dolphin the following morning. Another legend is that killing a boto brings about bad luck and if one makes eye contact with such animals they can have nightmares. Hence, most of the local beliefs show that these animals are considered special and should not be harmed. However, commercial fishermen have caught and killed such mammals. They also find their fish supplies depleting as commercial fishing reduces fishes in their natural habitats. Other threats to their natural habitats are waterways and dams which often affect their home range adversely as well as prevent them from following up on their catching of fishes.

The conservation societies encourage adoption of freshwater dolphins through volunteering and donation efforts. One way of contributing is to provide funds to the World Wildlife Fund to help such species to be protected and preserved.

This river valley lies in China, which gave rise to four civilizations from the ancient times. Along with this river valley, as by the Indus or the Nile, human civilizations developed whereby primates learned to cultivate crops, domesticate animals, develop social communities and other cornerstones of human social development. Rivers have always known to be centers for the growth of civilization mainly because they provide drinking water as well as water for irrigation, navigation for trade and other requirements.

Huang He River is also known as the Yellow River. It flows through northern China and spans a distance of 3400 miles. The middle part of the river forms the Huang River Valley. Rainfall during the summer months in the Kunlun Mountains fed the western parts of the river which also brought in topsoil known as loss from such regions. This gave the yellow color to the river for which it gained the nickname of the Yellow River.

Huang River Valley

Even though the silt gave fertile lands on either side of the Huang He River, it also came to be known as China’s sorrow. That is because the river flooded the middle plains, often and that led to much destruction of properties and crops as well as lost lives. The floods were beneficial as well because nutrient rich silt or less settled in the lower parts of the river valley which later on formed the Tai Yuan region. This is a flat, raised plateau of land where the Neolithic community was first established. I’ve been here twice, first I traveled with my wife Nancy and the second time I was with my buddy from high school who works at a company that specializes in junk removal in Vancouver. Both trips were equally good but also very different. 

At the time when Tai Yuan was formed, about eight thousand years ago, the land was not as eroded as in present times. This river valley boasts an ideal location where early humans could store food that was in excess as well as protect their communities. This was at a time when tribes would roam around and compete for dwellings and resources.

Later on, this region became the place where ceramics were formed on pottery wheels, silk was woven and bronze was forged as well as paper discovered. The flooding problem remained a problem of the Huang He till it a large dam was built across it.

River Engineering

River engineering involves methods that target in modifying a change in the course of a river. The reasons could be diverse, from protecting wetlands to ensuring that navigation is possible for boats along certain courses. River engineering brings in experts from different streams like geology, ecology, hydrology and civil engineering. Environmental concerns are rife about rivers and the consequences that come by when constructions are made on it or that which change their courses. Hence, the ultimate goal of any river engineering project needs to be protective of a river and its surrounding environment.

River Engineering

Humans have interfered with river courses for different reasons and in an ad hoc manner from time immemorial. When irrigation was started or when settlements faced the danger of flooding, such practices were made in an ad hoc manner. Today engineering of a river course takes on a more scientific and comprehensive view of the related river system and consequences that would come by when the course of a river is tampered with. Engineers are often asked to work on diverting a river’s course when flooding causes much damage and lives. There might be environmental issues that are being faced which could also require reverse engineering to be done in order to get back a previous natural river system.

The crew that is involved in river engineering first devise a plan as per the goal that has been discussed and sanctioned. Weather patterns, current river course, materials that form the river bed and geology of the surrounding river habitat need to be surveyed. The changes that are being thought about include the effects that would be in surrounding regions and human settlements. Any diversion also affects the animal population in the present habitat as a river provides food and other forms of sustenance to animals. Bringing about obstructions or barrier would also pose a problem to fishes and other aquatic animals that live in a river system.

Once these issues are looking into and possible effects identified, the site evaluation is then successfully concluded. A proposal is then put forward by the engineering team. There might be a consensus about what can be done and whether a project being considered would have too many harmful consequences. Once the regulatory agencies approve a river engineering project then commences. The activities that are involved in engineering a change in the course of a river include dredging to make the river bed deeper or straightening the river course. Often, water diversion is done when certain areas are adversely affected by repeated flooding.

There have been several benefits seen from river engineering projects. With the increase of communities around river systems, the control of river waters by embankments, dredging operations or diversion are necessary in order to protect from natural calamities like flooding.  Dam constructions when effectively done by objective river engineering practices help overcome the adverse side effects like loss of water in certain areas, disruption of aquatic life and others while enhancing other benefits like the generation of hydroelectricity and navigation channels.

River Rocks

River rock landscaping is a concept that extends to the domestic concept of landscaping from the river systems. Again, river rocks are also sourced for creating driveways, mailboxes, and gardens. They can be used to create borders around outbuildings, ponds, and lawns. River rock landscaping helps to control the growth of weeds and grasses around areas like drainpipes, carports, flagpoles, and mailboxes. These can be under canopies as well as placing on patios and decks.

River rocks can come to form a flower garden in your home or a small footpath if you wish so. These rocks are also used for creating or mimicking a dry riverbed area which can be great by the sides of a lawn. Usually, pea gravel is used for river rock landscaping.

If you are creating a pond in your garden, try using river rocks that can be spread out by the edges. This helps to create a natural water body look and feel. These could also line the bottom of a man-made pool or pond. Often these rocks are re-aligned with the edges of streams and other water bodies to make the areas less mushy or muddy. They are good for lining bottoms of waterfalls as well as this helps to reduce erosion of the soil. The rocks can also be used to inhibit soil depression from being formed around drain pipes.

River rocks can work for your home in different ways. These could act as a border along your flower patches or could be kept scattered around the edges of your garden. They also help to prevent the growth of weeds. You could layer on river rocks around flagpoles, birdhouses and mailboxes hat eliminate the growth of grass or weeds around such areas. The same concept is applied around drain pipes as well.

River rock landscaping has used in building home foundations as well. This helps to prevent home foundations from being eroded easily by debris or dirt as well as water splashing against the walls. They are often used with mortar to create patios, steps, sidewalks, and driveways. They are inexpensive and used for paving surfaces like carport canopies. Even in playgrounds, the use of river rocks is common. The stones act as a base around several playground equipments. They prevent the growth of weeds in unwanted areas of such garden spaces. They are also used as a base for large rocks or boulders. The sourcing of river rocks is usually done from nearby water bodies but should be done in a sustainable manner.

Polluting Asian Rivers

China’s river waters are often thought to suffer from polluting factors, but that is not the only country in Asia that might be contaminating waters of the rivers. In fact, most countries in Southeast Asia are facing the challenges of preventing chemical pollution from getting into their river waters. There are environmental threats that are most prevalent in countries like Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Cambodia, and others.

A recent discovery was made in the Chenab and Ravi rivers in Pakistan. It was determined that sediments being brought in by these tributaries to the Indus river contain persistent organic pollutants or POPs as well as organochlorine pesticides or OCPs as well as polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs.

POPs are pollutants that are not biodegradable. These affect the areas where they are deposited as they linger in such places. PCBs on the other hand, are carcinogenic and toxic. They are banned from landfill areas, but they still manage to get into the river waters from where they get into the oceans. PCBs can affect our nervous system, endocrine, and reproductive systems. It was banned in US long time back, but the developing and third world countries still use them as do private companies. A study was done of the Mangla Lake in Pakistan, a water reservoir that is used for swimming as well as fishing. Here heavy metal levels were found in the water.

It is not only industrial sources that cause pollution in river waters. Agrochemicals are used by farmers in most Southeast Asian countries as part of Green Revolution, techniques used to grow crops without putting in much effort. Agrochemicals pollute the soil and then find their way into rivers, lakes and stream waters. That is how they get into our food as well.

Polluting Asian Rivers

There has been seen rising in kidney diseases in countries like Sri Lanka and India. Male farmers are found to have been suffering from such condition between the ages of 30 to 60 even if they do not have precursor conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. These can be attributed to environmental pollution caused by the use of agrochemicals like DDT. Such substances have been banned from use in developed nations, but stricter restrictions need to come by for developing nations. These countries would be seeing a rise in carcinogenic diseases for a long time if the right steps are not taken.

There are several long rivers to be found all over the world, but it can be difficult to determine what the length of a river is exactly. Many rivers usually join to form a river system, but it is often difficult to determine the origin of a single river. In most cases, the length of a river is measured from the headwaters that are located the farthest distance from the mouth of a river. In certain instances, the source of a river is usually on a tributary that has a different name than the main river.

The Nile is one of the longest rivers of the world that is known to cover ten countries. The Nile River winds through Egypt, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Sudan and Uganda. On the other hand, Mississippi is a river that flows through only a single country.

The Amazon is the second-longest river in the world, and it is known to carry the maximum volume of water as compared to any other river. The Amazon system comprises of the second and third longest rivers which are Madeira and Purus. These two rivers also form part of the Mississippi and Missouri system.

If you look at the Australian sub-continent, this part of the world does not have a single river that would count among the top twenty in the world. The longest river here is the Murray River which covers about 1475 miles. The river system comprising of the Murray and Darling comprises a length of 2094 miles that make it to the list of the top 20 rivers. Among other longest rivers, there are three in Africa and one in Europe. The Volga and Danube are the longest rivers of Europe, while the remaining long rivers belong to the Asian subcontinent.