Landforms and Definitions List
List of Landforms

Alluvial fan:  land formation that occurs when sedimentary materials such as rocks, gravel, and silt, are deposited onto land as a result of decreasing or stopped water flow from a river or stream source.

Altitude (elevation): the height above sea level

Anabranch: a flowing part of the river that is separated, usually by an island, and rejoins back down stream.

Archipelago: a group of many islands.

Arête:  a group sharp ridges of rocks on mountain tops usually caused by melting glaciers.

Aseismic Ridge: Chain of seamounts under the ocean created by a hotspot under the Earth’s crust

Arroyo: a creek that is sometimes dry during the year from not having a constant water source such as rain.

Badlands: barren, battered and eroded land from water and shaped with the help of wearing and wind-driven sand and rain.

Barchan: is a sand dune that crescent-shape that faces the wind.  The convex shape is formed by the constant blow of wind in one direction.

Barrier Island: an island or group of island, usually in the ocean, that protects the nearby mainland coast from erosion.

Basin: An area of land largely enclosed by higher land.

Bay: part of a body of salt water that reaches into the land; usually smaller than a gulf

Bayou: A slow moving body of water in a low lying area, usually near the coast, with swamp or marshland in some portions of the shoreline.

Beach: A sloping shoreline consisting of sand, gravel, soil or other sediment.

Beach Cusps:  Beach formation in the form of an arc with a cusp or point at each end

Beach Ridge: Elevated formation of sand or other beach material running parallel to a shoreline

Bight: A curve like a bay landform that that has less curve than a bay.

Bluff: a cliff looking over a body of water or plain.

Bornhardt: a rock formation with steep or vertical sides and a round or dome-shaped top usually with little or no vegetation.

branch (tributary)
a river or stream that flows into a larger river or stream

Blowhole: a hole connected to a cave that is attached to a water system that builds up pressure through waves, current or wind.  When the pressure is great enough, water is release, usually in a spouting manner.

Blowout: A depression or a major loss in vegetation in the ground where the wind has blown away sand or topsoil.

Braided River: A river that has three or move channels that come back together or drain into the same body of water.

Butte: A rock formation with vertical or nearly vertical sides that is flat on top and taller than it is wide

Canal: a man-made waterway connecting two bodies of water and is designed to shorten travel time or irrigate

Canyon: narrow valley with steep sides; usually created by erosion

Cape: a curved or hooked piece of land extending into a body of water

Cave: a hallow space in the ground or mountain with an opening to enter.

Cenote: a collapsed are, usually limestone, with exposed water.

Channel: a narrow deep waterway connecting two larger bodies of water; the deepest part of the waterway.

climate
the pattern of weather conditions (temperature, precipitation) over a long period of time

Cliff: A high, steep slope of rock or soil

coast
land along the sea or ocean

Confluence: Two or more bodies of water meet and their waters mix.

Continent: one of the seven largest bodies of land on earth

Continental shelf: plateau of land surface into the ocean but underwater extending from a continent.

Cove: a small bay with a restricted entrance.

Crater Lake:  is a crater or caldera filled with water caused by a volcano eruption or meteor impact.

Crevasse: is a large crack in a glacier that can be seen from the surface.

Cuspate Foreland: a triangular extension from the coast

Cuesta:  a gentle ground slope with a cliff.

Current: the flow of a stream of water

Dam: a wall built across a stream or river to hold back water

Dell: a valley with trees.

Delta: land built up by deposits of sand and silt at the mouth of some rivers

Dirt Cone: Done shape deposit of dirt caused by a glacier.

Desert: dry, barren region usually sandy and without trees, little rainfall or practical use of land unless irrigated

Divide: the highest ridge of land separating river basins

Dome: Oval or round land formation that is elevated from the surrounding areas.

downstream
the direction of a river’s flow; toward the mouth of the river

Drainage Basin: All the water in the river exiting at a point usually into another water system like the ocean, lake or another river.

Dry Lake: a lake that is dry all year or most of the year with the dry layer being mud or salt.

Dune:  a pile of sand created by wind or waves (underwater dunes)

Erg: a group of sand dunes usually found in a desert.

Estuary: where a river runs into the ocean or other types of salt water.

Escarpment: The edge of a cliff with a steep slope

fault
a fracture in the rocks along which there has been movement

fjord: a narrow inlet of the sea between high banks or cliffs created by glaciers

Flats or flat:  a floodplain or former floodplain that has a flat ground surface.

Floodplain:  a flat are of land around a river that floods when the river gets high.

Forest: a large tract of land covered with trees and underbrush; extensive wooded area

Fork: The place where a stream or tributary joins a river

Geo: a narrow inlet in a cliff usually caused by waves or glaciers.

Geyser: An opening in the ground that ejects hot water and steam due to volcanic activity.

Glacier: a large body of slow moving ice which alters the land around it through displacement

Glacier Caves:  A cave at the bottom of a glacier.

Glen:  a long and deep valley usually with steep sides.  See also dale and valley.

Gully: a channel cut in the hillside or mountainside from

Gulf: part of a sea or ocean that reaches into land; usually larger than a bay.

Gorge:  a deep valley with steep rocks on each side. Also referred to as a valley or canyon.

Graben:  a ground depression between two faults.

Guyot: is a flat top seamount that is or once had volcanic activity.

Hanging Valley: A valley that is above another valley usually separated by a cliff.

harbor
a sheltered area of water where ships may anchor safely

Headland: a large area of land extending into a large area of water

hemisphere: half of the earth usually referred to as eastern or western; northern or southern

highland
an area of hills, plateaus, and mountains

hill: a raised part of the earth’s surface with sloping sides; old mountain which because of erosion has become rounder and shorter

Hogback: an exposed rock range caused by erosion

Hoodoo: A irregular shaped rock formation that is tall and pillar-like

Iceberg: a large mass of floating ice that has broken off from a glacier, most of this is underwater

Inlet: a small part of a body of water that reaches into a coast

Island: an are of land completely surrounded by water

Islet: A island, usually all rock with little vegetation, that is uninhabitable.

isthmus: narrow strip of land with water on both sides connecting two larger pieces of land.

Karst: A soluble rock landscape shaped through erosion.

lake: a large body of water surrounded by land

Latitude: imaginary lines on a globe or map used to measure distance from the equator; parallel lines running east and west

Lava Dome: a rise in the ground or volcano caused by lava going through vents in the earth.

Lava Field: area of land covered by lava flow.

Lava Lake: molten lava in a crater or vent.  (Like a lake filled with lava)

Lava Spine: vertical flowing lava that grows, usually in a sharp tower like shape.

Lava Tube:  a sold cave tube caused by lava

Longitude: imaginary lines on a globe or map used to measure distance from the Prime Meridian; lines running from pole to pole.

Lowland: an area of low and usually level land

Marsh: a wetland with grasses and little or no trees

Meander: a major bend in a river or stream

Mesa: a land formation having a relatively flat top and steep rock walls

Moraine: deposits of rock and sediment left from a former or receding glacier

Mountain: high, rocky land, usually with steep sides and a pointed or rounded top, higher than a hill

Mountain Pass: the highest point in a mountain range that is passable by foot.

Mountain Range: a long chain of mountains; a row of connected mountains

Mouth (of a river): place where a river empties into a larger body of water; the end of a river

Mud Volcano: geothermal heated mud that bubbles like lava in a volcano.

Natural Arch:  rock that forms together with a natural rock bridge usually caused by erosion.

Nunatak: Rocks coming from a glacier

Oasis: a fertile place in the desert where there is water and some vegetation

ocean: largest body of salt water; these cover 3/4 of the earth’s surface.

Ocean Range or Mid-Ocean Range: two separating underwater tectonic plates separating with magma expelling creating mountain ranges.

Oceanic Basin: All the land in each specific ocean.

Oceanic Plateau: an elevated area of the seafloor that is higher than the surrounding area.

Oxbow Lake: a former meander of a river that has separated into a curved lake.

Peninsula:  piece of land that extends into a body of water and is surrounded on three sides by water.

Pit Crater: a hole or crater with steep sides caused by volcanic activity.

Plain: a broad, flat or gently rolling area; usually low in elevation.

Plateau:  flat highland area with one steep face; elevated plain.

Plunge Pool: a deep area of water under the waterfall.

Pond:  a small body of water surrounded by land.

Port: man-made place along the coastline where ships can load and unload cargo; not a natural harbor.

Pothole: A hole in an exposed layer of rock that created by a river’s flowing water.

Prairie: a large plains region with tall grass.

Proglacial Lake: a freshwater lake that forms behind a glacier.

Pyramidal Peak:  Is where two or more arêtes meet and form a pyramid shape on top of a mountain.

Raised Beach: an area of land above the shore that is higher than high tide.

Rapids: a part of a river, generally shallow, where the currents move swiftly over rocks.

Ravine: a smaller form of a valley with steep sides.

Reef: a ridge of rock or sand at or near the surface of the water.

Reservoir: a lake where water is collected and stored for future use.

Ria:  a valley that flows into a coastline’s water and gets submerged.

Riffle: a shallow area of a river, lake or stream that has ripples caused usually by a rocky surface.

Rift Valley:  two separating tectonic plates forming a valley by the land falling.

River: a large stream of water flowing through the land into a lake, ocean, or other body of water.

River Delta: a branching river extending into another body of water.

River Island:  an island in a river.

Sea: a large body of water, usually salt water, partly or completely surrounded by land.

Sound: a wide channel connecting two bodies of water or an inlet between the mainland and islands

Source (of a river): the place where a river or stream begins.

Strait: a narrow waterway connecting two larger bodies of water.

Sandbar:  an area of sand or sentiment that has been collecting and rises above or just below the water.

Sinkhole: Collapsed limestone or other softrock that forms a hole on the earth’s surface.

Swamp: an area of land that is always soaked with water; low, wet land that supports grass and trees.

Terrace:  a flat area of land like a step on landforms like a mountain, valley or beach.

Tide: the regular rising and falling of the water of the oceans and waters connected to the ocean.

Upstream: the direction toward a river’s source; opposite to the rivers’ flow.

Valley: low land between hills or mountains.

Volcano: a cone shaped mountain formed out of rock or ash thrown up from inside the arth, frequently with an opening or depression at the top.

Waterfall: place where running water makes a sheer drop, usually over a cliff.

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