Wikipedia is basic about this:
A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of water.Source.
In other words, it’s a flow of water.
Water generally collects in a river from precipitation through a drainage basin from surface runoff and other sources such as groundwater recharge, springs, and the release of stored water in natural ice and snowpacks.Source.
See what I mean about Wikipedia being basic? That could define a lake. The difference is that a river flows. For both a river and a lake, the water lies where the land makes space for it and holds it. In the case of a lake, the water stays largely in place. In the case of a river, the flow is water that breaches the land’s ability to hold it.
Rivers naturally flood. The German language even puts this quite clearly. In German, the current of a river is a Flut, or a flood, a strong, rising stream of water. In other words, a water is a streaming, of both land and water.
The sound of this river is the roar of these rocks knocking against each other in the stream, when the flow covers them. There’s no saying that a river must always be the same depth.
Only when a river stops flowing does it cease to be a river. At that point, the Flood (die Flut, in German) becomes a lake. The land is broad enough to hold it. And only then is it called, in English, a flood! “It floods the land,” we say, meaning the water that lies on top of the road or the tomato patch. What we should say, however, to be more accurate, is that the land has caught the flood. This is a strange business. In English, the colonial language in these parts, this natural capacity of the land to catch the water that it has shaped into a flow is called a “watershed.” It is said to “shed” water. Here’s a guide:
Well, with that in mind, I think you can see why floods are dreaded: by these definitions, a land gives off water it doesn’t catch it. Consequently, when land and water work together to do what they naturally do together, gather and pass on, the gift of water is lost, replaced by an invasion. It has broken the rules! This doesn’t just frustrate people on land, either. The sky does the same work.
Think of it: the mountains that squeeze water from the air then catch it. Where it overflows their ability to hold it, they pass it on in flows, which are concentrations of the same energy that drew the water from the sky and concentrated it on the slopes.
Well, above Daisy, which was flooded to create the reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam. Bye, bye, peach trees and ball fields.
It concentrates people there too. If they understand these relationships, they can use the pressure of the land on the water (and the water on the land) to expand their strength. Rivers aren’t obstacles to cross, but energies, that may be crossed, or not. Of course, to newcomers, rivers are obstacles and boundaries and attractive resources
So, as we move forward into the next part of this history, let’s keep all this in mind: rivers are flows of energy, that comes from the land itself, in its relationship with the sky. They are the land in another form. We are soon going to meet people who are their land and their water, and others who worked hard to separate them.
The United States claims this land and water now, as resources and not people. This conflation of anarchy, demographic pressure, racism, slavery and mercantalism is our history in British Columbia as well. This division came from the south, before it was amplified by Canadian bureaucracy a half century later. It’s going to be a great trip. I hope you’ll join me. Until then…
Mergansers! (Just because.)