A distributary, or a distributary channel, is a stream that branches off and flows away from a main stream channel. They are a common feature of river deltas. The phenomenon is known as river bifurcation. The opposite of a distributary is a tributary. Distributaries usually occur as a stream nears a lake or an ocean, but they can occur inland as well, such as on alluvial fans or when a tributary stream bifurcates as it nears its confluence with a larger stream. In some cases, a minor distributary can divert so much water from the main channel that it can become the main route.

Common terms to name individual river distributaries in English-speaking countries are arm and channel. They may refer to a distributary that does not rejoin the channel it has branched from (e.g., the North, Middle, and South Arms of the Fraser River, or the West Channel of the Mackenzie River), or to one that does (e.g. Annacis Channel and Annieville Channel of the Fraser River, separated by Annacis Island).

In Australia, the term anabranch is used to refer to a distributary that diverts from the main course of the river and rejoins it later. In North America an anabranch is called a braided stream.

In Louisiana, the Atchafalaya River is an important distributary of the Mississippi River. Because the Atchafalaya takes a steeper route to the Gulf of Mexico than the main channel, over several decades it has captured more and more of the Mississippi's flow, after the Mississippi meandered into the Red River of the South. The Old River Control Structure, a dam which regulates the outflow from the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya, was completed in 1963. It is intended to prevent the Atchafalaya from capturing the main flow of the Mississippi and stranding the ports of Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

In British Columbia, Canada, the Fraser River has numerous sloughs and side-channels which may be defined as distributaries. Its final stretch has three main distributaries: the North Arm and the South Arm, and a few smaller ones adjoining them.

Examples of inland distributaries:

This page was last edited on 11 June 2018, at 02:38 (UTC).
Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributary under CC BY-SA license.

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