I know that rivers do not usually split but they can.
e.g. It can occur due the glacial shift.

Are there any other ways that this could happen? And if it did would one river become dominant a receive more water until the other one become obsolete? or Could they both naturally coexist?

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    $\begingroup$ You might have better luck on Earth Science SE. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 5:44
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    $\begingroup$ Unless of course there are certain differences between the world you are building and earth that would impact on this. In which case these differences should be stated in your question. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 5:49

2 Answers 2


Reading this wikipedia article is strongly recommended. It is precisely about the topic you are researching about.

A river can split due to natural/geologic activities or people can split it for their own reasons.

1- A very wide river can split due to volcanic action. Orogenic events can push a series of hills through a riverbed, splitting it into two (or more) branches.

2- Rivers can also be split due to massive landslides and mudflows. However, these types of divisions are temporary, as the constant flow of water dissolves or displaces the mud and other obstacles in its way.

3- With modern technology, it is possible for people to change the course of, or split a river. Filling the middle part of a river with massive rocks and then stabilizing them with metallic supports would split a river. One of the branches can then be used to provide water to a city or utilized for irrigation.

There are many examples of river branches which are permanently coexisting. These examples are listed in the article linked above. Tributaries usually dry up due to geologic events, when there is some major geological activity at the place of the split, which stops or discourages the flow of water into the channel. Most of the time, this happens when the mouth of the tributary is elevated due to orogenic events or when excessive amounts of rocks break from a nearby mountain and shut the mouth of the tributary.


Water in rivers tends to try to follow the easiest path to a lower point. This means that in order for a river to split it requires two (or more) paths that are equally easy for the water to flow. If one is slightly easier, more water will flow using that channel and erosion will cause that channel to get easier and it will become the only path.

So you might see short-term splits in a river due to events that affect the river's path, but over long periods you will see one (easiest path) river channel with other (dry) channels where the river used to run.

Unless you postulate a world that has forces that counterbalance the nature of how water flows or the effect of river erosion, rivers in your world will act similarly to the ones on Earth.


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