• bluff
    A bluff overlooks the Ozark Mountains.

    Photograph by Mike McArthy, My Shot

    The King and Queen of Bluffs
    Great River Bluffs State Park in Minnesota features steep bluffs rising 150 meters (500 feet) above the Mississippi River. Two specific sections of the park, King's Bluff and Queen's Bluff, are protected as scientific and natural areas.

    A bluff is a steep cliff, or wall of rock or soil. Most bluffs border a river or its flood plain.

    Bluffs may form along a river where it meanders, or curves from side to side. Water on the outside of the curve flows faster. This erodes, or wears away, the lower part of a river bank. No longer supported, the upper part of the bank breaks off, leaving a high, steep wall.

    Erosion also produces bluffs along the edges of a flood plain. Over thousands of years, a meandering river gradually shifts from side to side across its flood plain. Where the meanders, or loops, of the river reach valley walls, the water may carve bluffs.

    A bluff is different from an escarpment, another kind of cliff. An escarpment does not form near a river. Instead, it usually separates two relatively level sections of land.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    bluff Noun

    steep cliff.

    Encyclopedic Entry: bluff
    border Verb

    to exist on the edge of a boundary.

    cliff Noun

    steep wall of rock, earth, or ice.

    Encyclopedic Entry: cliff
    erode Verb

    to wear away.

    erosion Noun

    act in which earth is worn away, often by water, wind, or ice.

    Encyclopedic Entry: erosion
    escarpment Noun

    cliff or steep rock that separates two level land surfaces.

    Encyclopedic Entry: escarpment
    flood plain Noun

    flat area alongside a stream or river that is subject to flooding.

    Encyclopedic Entry: flood plain
    meander Verb

    to wander aimlessly.

    river Noun

    large stream of flowing fresh water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: river
    river bank Noun

    raised edges of land on the side of a river.

    rock Noun

    natural substance composed of solid mineral matter.

    soil Noun

    top layer of the Earth's surface where plants can grow.

    steep Adjective

    extreme incline or decline.

    valley Noun

    depression in the Earth between hills.

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