The Difference Between a Basin and a Valley

a Basin vs a Valley

If you look up the definitions of the words “basin” and “valley”, you may think that they are synonymous because they both refer to indentations in the land and both have a river or stream running through it. While there are similarities between the two, there are also decided differences.

What is a basin?

A basin is a piece of land that descends towards a body of water and has a river or stream that empties or drains into this body of water. One interesting point about a basin is that the area that stretches from the highest point of land and reaching down to the bottom of the stream or river is regarded as the drainage area.

Another term that is often used for such an area of land is “watershed” and this word is synonymous with “basin”. It is the part of the land that is drained by a river and any tributaries that flow into that river. All streams flow downhill towards a river and the ocean is the ultimate destination for all rivers.

A typical basin has a network of streams and small creeks. The role of a river basin is to make sure all the water in the rivers and streams finds its way to the ocean. If you have difficulty understanding how this works, just think of the sink and the bathroom in your house. Everything that goes down the drain finds its way to the sewer system. This is how the rivers and creeks work in a basin. All the tributaries, rivers and streams are connected because they all flow towards one goal – the ocean.

What is a valley?

A valley is completely different from a basin. It consists of lower land surrounded by much higher land in the form of hills and mountains. There are different categories of valleys on the surface of the earth and they all contribute in some way to the sustenance of life on the planet.

Valleys are formed when the crust of the earth separates, even a little, the tectonic plates move and this causes a rift valley to form. The movement of glaciers over the land is sometimes the cause of a valley formation and when this happens the resulting valley is called a glacier valley. Then there are river valleys that form over time as the result of erosion.

One of the characteristics of valleys is that they are large and wide. They are easy to navigate and they have climates that are different from those of the land that surrounds them.