The vast flood plains surrounding the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in the United States are among the most fertile agricultural land in the world. The use of dams, levees, and dikes usually allows people to control the flooding of the rivers.
However, river management does not always work. Homes, farms, and other businesses in flood plains from Minnesota to Louisiana are threatened by the overflowing of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
A flood plain is an area of land that is prone to flooding. People realize it is prone to flooding because it has flooded in the past due to a river or stream overflowing its banks.
A flood plain usually is a flat area with areas of higher elevation on both sides. Flood plains can be very small or very large. Small flood plains sometimes are part of a valley. Houses that are built in small flood plains often require more insurance coverage because damage due to flooding is more likely to occur there than in higher elevations.
Large flood plains can almost take up entire countries. In Vietnam's Mekong River delta, the flood plain of the Hau and Tien rivers covers more than 12,000 square kilometers (7,450 miles).
Flood plains usually are very fertile agricultural areas. Floods carry sediment rich in nutrients. They spread that sediment to a wide area. Flood plains are flat and have relatively few rocks or other large obstacles that may prevent farming. The flood plains of the Nile River have been Egypt's center of agriculture for thousands of years.
Floods are usually seasonal and can be predicted months ahead of time. The ability to develop agriculture, the transportation allowed by rivers, and the normally stable flood season make flood plains ideal locations to develop urban areas. The flood plains between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are home to some of the world's earliest civilizations and first cities, including Ur.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry agriculture Noun
the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).
Encyclopedic Entry: agriculture bank Noun
a slope of land adjoining a body of water, or a large elevated area of the sea floor.
large settlement with a high population density.
complex way of life that developed as humans began to develop urban settlements.
Encyclopedic Entry: civilization country Noun
geographic territory with a distinct name, flag, population, boundaries, and government.
structure built across a river or other waterway to control the flow of water.
harm that reduces usefulness or value.
to expand or grow.
a barrier, usually a natural or artificial wall used to regulate water levels.
Encyclopedic Entry: dike fertile Adjective
able to produce crops or sustain agriculture.
to overflow or cover in water or another liquid.
flood plain Noun
flat area alongside a stream or river that is subject to flooding.
Encyclopedic Entry: flood plain ideal Adjective
money paid in good health to guarantee financial or physical health if injury or damage occurs.
bank of a river, raised either naturally or constructed by people.
Encyclopedic Entry: levee nutrient Noun
substance an organism needs for energy, growth, and life.
Encyclopedic Entry: nutrient obstacle Noun
something that slows or stops progress.
to know the outcome of a situation in advance.
vulnerable or tending to act in a certain way.
large stream of flowing fresh water.
Encyclopedic Entry: river river management Noun
the art and science of controlling the flow, path, and power of rivers.
natural substance composed of solid mineral matter.
likely to change with the seasons.
solid material transported and deposited by water, ice, and wind.
Encyclopedic Entry: sediment stream Noun
body of flowing fluid.
movement of people or goods from one place to another.
one of the earliest cities in the world, established as an urban center on the Euphrates River and the Persian Gulf as early as 3000 BCE.
urban area Noun
developed, densely populated area where most inhabitants have nonagricultural jobs.
Encyclopedic Entry: urban area valley Noun
depression in the Earth between hills.