GCSE Geography: Rivers - Upper Course Features

23rd August 2017

GCSE Geography Revision - Made Easy!

Everything you need to know about Lower Course Features of Rivers!


There are very specific characteristics attributed to each part of a river's course. A river is split up unto 3 parts - upper course, middle course and lower course. Each is defined by particular variations of features such as discharge speed, the width and depth of the river bed, the landscape and many more.


The upper course of a river is where the river begins its path toward the sea. This part of the river arguably has the most landscape features, and biggest range of physical features.

Features of a river's upper course:


  • Source - This is where the river begins. It is usually found at one of the highest points of a region's landform. They can be difficult to locate because of their tiny size.


  • V-Shaped Valleys - These are the landforms that carry the river down from the source to the main body of the river. Their V-shape form means the river simply follows the point at the bottom, before it becomes big and strong enough to carve its own path.


  • Interlocking Spurs - The valley guides the river into an area of land that is characterised by hills that interlock, akin to a zip. The river weaves in and out of the gaps between these spurs.


  • Waterfalls and Rapids - When water moves into, by, or over alternating layers of hard and soft rock in the landscape, it causes each to erode at different rates. Soft rock erodes quickly and more smoothly, and hard rock tends to stay firm and erodes more steeply. As the river encounters these aternating layers, it erodes the soft rock faster which can create waterfalls and plunge pools (the undercut pool underneath a waterfall), as well as rapids. You can find more information on erosion and alternating hard and soft rock on our video "Headlands and Bays", and while this focuses on coastlines, it is still valuable for your understanding of waterfalls and rapids!


Make sure to check out our accompanying music video for Upper Course Features of Rivers, remember the lyrics, and then have a go at our test!


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