How Water Affects Land Formations and Erosion

The Grand Canyon stands as mute testimony to the power of water and erosion and the shape of our land. Perhaps not in isolation, but certainly as the most significant contributing factor, the Colorado River over a period of millions of years worked in conjunction with wind, perhaps some continental drift and other geological factors to wear away rock, sediment and sand. The magnificent result is a canyon having an order of magnitude exceeding 6 000 feet.

Water is a powerful force that, over time, will continuously wear down the hardest of rock and the most stubborn of ground. Some of the majestic sea shore rock formations; caves, towering arches and rock formations are the result of ceaseless pounding by ocean waves since the beginning of the planet’s geological history. In time, the mightiest tower of rock will eventually reduce to the grains of sand that line our beaches.

Sand dunes are mounds of sand between the beach and lowlands or estuaries. Formed by wind carrying dry sand towards land, and will mound to heights as large as 6m or 20′ in more than one parallel line between the beach and the land. This happens when wind carrying the sand strikes an obstruction such as foliage, the wind slows and the sand is deposited. In storms, or resulting from surges, dunes are constantly changing shape, form and sometimes will even wear to nothing.

Water rushing across planes will rapidly wear down the land and begin to form deep chasms. This will not happen in straight lines because of variations in density where water will erode in places where the ground is less dense while moving either side of more densely packed earth. In this way, rivers and streams snake across the land until they reach the sea.

Water shapes the land as well as performing important cleansing and redistribution of nutrients where floodplains benefit from the mixture of loams, mixed vegetations and minerals transported from the highlands. Early agriculture relied on this flooding cycle to maintain crops and soil productivity.

Water formed landscapes are some of the most beautiful places on this planet. A work of many millions of years, water is without any doubt the most powerful force in nature, and has been the primary cause of the great canyons, valleys, rifts and land variations. Given sufficient time, water will wear down the highest mountains and the hardest of rock.