What is a River Basin?

By Ritika Pant|Updated : July 28th, 2022

A river basin is a region formed by draining any river and its tributaries. A river basin is created of different lands that shed water into a particular water body. A miniature version of a river basin is referred to as a watershed.

Every river and its branches have its watershed that drains to a bigger marshland or stream. The river has various parts, including lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands. There is a vast difference between a river basin and watersheds.

A great feature of a river basin is its water can go inside the soil and form what is known as Aquifers. These areas between rocks contain fresh water and a pure source of drinking water.

Given below is a brief difference between a river basin and a watershed.

River Basin


Water drains into a large river. Therefore, it consists of a huge number of watersheds.

It is a smaller land area that drains into a smaller stream, lake, or wetland.

Examples of River Basin

River basins begin at high elevated areas, such as hilltops or mountains, and flow downhill. Eventually, the river basin's water drains into a large water body, for instance, a large lake or an ocean. For example, the Mississippi River basin in the U.S. comprises six major watersheds: Tennessee, Lower Mississippi, Missouri, Upper Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas-Red-White Rivers.

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FAQs on What is a River Basin

  • A river basin drains all of its water to a large river or estuary. A watershed is a smaller portion of any land that catches snow or rain and seeps into a river, lake, underground water, marshes, or streams.

  • A river basin is an area of land where a river and its tributaries flow. For example, the total area drained by the Mississippi River includes its drainage basin. In contrast, that part of the Mississippi River drained by the Ohio River is Ohio's drainage basin.

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