List of rivers that have reversed direction

A number of rivers are known to have reversed the direction of their flow, either permanently or temporarily, in response to geological activity, weather events, climate change, or direct human intervention.

Permanent reversals

RiverOriginal outletCurrent outletContinentDate of reversalCause of reversalReferences
Amazon RiverPacific OceanAtlantic OceanSouth AmericaCretaceous periodFormation of Andes Mountains[1]
Chicago RiverLake MichiganMississippi RiverNorth America1900Construction of Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal[1]

Temporary reversals

Intermittent temporary reversals

Hurricane storm surges often cause temporary reversals of coastal rivers.[1]

RiverOutletContinentDate of reversalCause of reversalReferences
Chicago River[lower-alpha 1]Mississippi RiverNorth America2017[lower-alpha 2]Storm surge[2]
Mississippi RiverGulf of MexicoNorth America 1812Tectonic uplift caused by New Madrid earthquakes[3]
2005Storm surge from Hurricane Katrina[1]
2012Storm surge from Hurricane Isaac[1][4]
  1. These reversals represent a return to the Chicago River's original natural outlet in Lake Michigan.
  2. Reversals of the Chicago River have been increasing in frequency in association with global warming, and may soon occur at least once each year.[2]

Regular temporary reversals

Rivers which act as tidal estuaries may exhibit flow reversal with the tidal cycle. [5]

RiverOutletContinentFrequency of reversalCause of reversalReferences
Hudson RiverUpper New York BayNorth AmericasemidiurnalTide in Upper New York Bay[5]
Saint John River (Reversing Falls)Bay of FundyNorth AmericasemidiurnalTide in the Bay of Fundy[6]
Tonlé Sap RiverMekong RiverAsiaannualMonsoon flooding of the Mekong River[7]

See also

  • Stream capture, in which a stream or river is diverted from its own bed, and flows instead down a neighboring channel

References

  1. Borneman, Elizabeth (November 24, 2014). "Rivers that Flow Backwards". Geo Lounge. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  2. "How Climate Change Is Making This River Run Backwards". EcoWatch. Natural Resources Defense Council. June 4, 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  3. Soniak, Matt (January 25, 2013). "Has a U.S. River Run Backwards Before?". Mental Floss. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  4. "Mississippi River Flows Backwards Due to Isaac". USGS Newsroom. United States Geological Survey. August 29, 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  5. "The Hudson Estuary: A River That Flows Two Ways". New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  6. "Reversing Falls". New-Brunswick.net. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  7. Jennings, Ken (February 2, 2015). "Why the Tonle Sap River Is Unlike Any Other River in the World". Condé Nast Traveler. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
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