What are knick points?

Updated: 12/19/2022
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A knickpoint is a term in

geomorphology to describe a

location of a river or channel

where there is a sharp change

in channel slope, such as a

waterfall or lake. Knickpoints

reflect different conditions and

processes on the river often

caused by previous erosion

due to glaciation or variance in



Knickpoints are formed by the

influence of tectonics, climate

history, and/or lithology.[1] For

example, uplift along a fault

over which a river is flowing

will often result in an unusually

steep reach along a channel,

known as a knickzone.

Glaciation resulting in a

hanging valley are often prime

spots for knickpoints. If

lithology of the rock varies,

such as shale amongst igneous

rock, erosion will occur more

steadily in the softer rock than

the surrounding.


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Knick points and waterfalls form in valley long profiles due to variations in rock hardness or structural changes in the underlying geology. The resistant rock types erode more slowly than surrounding softer rocks, creating sudden drops in the landscape and a steepening of the valley. This process creates a visible boundary in the landscape as the river erodes the softer rock below the knick point.

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