Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Brook vs. Creek vs. Stream vs. River

As I was reading today I wondered what the difference is between a brook and a creek. Then I got to wondering about the stream and the river. defines them as...

Brook - a small, natural stream of fresh water
Creek - (in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.) a stream smaller than a river
Stream - a body of water flowing in a channel or watercourse, as a river, rivulet, or brook
River - a natural stream of water of fairly large size flowing in a definite course or channel or series of diverging and converging channels

So a brook is smaller than a creek which is smaller than a steam which is smaller than a river. I'm just trying to decide if my grandpa's farm has a creek or a stream or a brook that runs along one side. It must be a creek considering it doesn't look nearly as lovely as the description sounds of the brook that streams by Green Gables.


Tina said...

Well my take on it is that a brook, a creak and a stream could be used to describe the same flowing water. I think we have the old "coke", "soda", "pop" thing going here. The funny thing is they used each term in each discription. Where I come from we call it a creek but if I were writing I'd probably say stream or brook because that sounds more poetic, don't ya think?

Tina said...

re: the message before, sorry I meant "creek" not "creak".

Randall said...

a brook is a flowing body of water with no tributaries and dries up part of the year.
a creek is a flowing body of water with several brooks as tributaries.
a stream is a flowing body of water with one or more creeks as tributaries.
a river has one or more major tributaries and any number of the previous flowing bodies of water.

Chip said...

For what it's worth, in southern California where I grew up there are many rivers which flow only rarely, but they all have the property of leading to the sea.

Their tributaries are called creeks, and there was no such thing as a "brook" in that region. A creek is still a creek even when dry, which they are 95% of the time.

The usage of "stream" is more ambiguous, but it does seem to be a diminutive. I've never heard it applied to a watercourse that was not actually flowing at the time.

Anonymous said...

I think a brook is fed by a spring and either terminates in a pond or lake. A creek is ground water run-off. A stream is fed by lakes or ponds that can be created by brooks or creeks. Creeks can feed runs - runs feed rivers along with any thing else.

IMHO: If it can dry out because of weather, it is either a creek or run.

Owen said...

I'm sorry, but you're all wrong. There is no standard measurement for a brook, a creek, or a river. A stream is typically a generic term for all flowing water. The actual names of creek, brook, or river were typically given during the states survey. A chain consisting of 100 links and was 66' long was used to measure out the townships. From there all property lines were to be measured from. During this process, when surveyers came to an obstruction such as a flowing stream of water, they had to get across and continue measuring. Most of times they would name the water a river when it was wider than the chain. In this case they would wade out into the stream with one man holding the chain as high as he could above his head, while the other would squat down to make the chain level. If it was narrow enough, they could simply walk across with the chain and have a man on each bank to keep the chain straight and level to the ground. However, smaller streams were debatable and were voted on. Later on after the survey, the state government may have changed the term used to suite public needs such as logging. This is because a river's bottom is considered public property, while a brook's or creek's bottom may be considered private property! That means if you are in a boat, you're alright. Once you throw in an anchor though, you may be trespassing! Many lakes have the similar rules depending on if they were meandered or not during a survey.

Anonymous said...

Maggie said...

I wish I could find where I once looked this up and the difference was generally defined by the depth of the water. I was curious because we have a creek here called Ayres Creek. I t VERY wide and looks like quite and expansive body of water, making you believe it is a river and why on earth would they call it a creek. Well apparently. although Ayers Creek is very wide, it isn't more than about 18 inches deep at it's deepest, making it a creek. Whereas a brook would be just a couple inches of water babbling down a hillside, and usually not very wide. And the stream would be something that could be a few feet deep, usually wide and the river could be much deeper.. and of course quite wide.