In geology, a valley (also called a vale, dale, glen or strath and near or in Appalachia, a draw) is a depression with predominant extent in one direction. A very deep river valley may be called a canyon or gorge.

The terms U-shaped and V-shaped are descriptive terms of geography to characterize the form of valleys. Most valleys belong to one of these two main types or a mixture of them, at least with respect of the cross section of the slopes or hillsides.

River valleys anchor|River valleys

:"For a comprehensive list of world wide river valleys see: "A valley formed by flowing water, or "river valley", is usually V-shaped. The exact shape will depend on the characteristics of the stream flowing through it. Rivers with steep gradients, as in mountain ranges, produce steep walls and a narrow bottom. Shallower slopes may produce broader and gentler valleys, but in the lowest stretch of a river, where it approaches its base level, it begins to deposit sediment and the valley bottom becomes a floodplain.

A V-shaped valley is formed by downcutting when the flowing stream erodes its channel at a higher rate than the sides are eroded. The resulting landform is a narrow canyon with fast water and little bank (floodplain) on the river sides.

Some broad "V" examples are:
* USA: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and others in Grand Canyon NP
* Alpine Europe:
** Austria: narrow passages of upper Inn valley (Inntal), affluents of Enns a.s.o
** Switzerland: Napf region, Zurich Oberland, Engadin
** Germany: affluents to the middle reaches of Rhine and Mosel

= Glacial valleys =

A valley carved by glaciers, or "glacial valley", is normally U-shaped. The valley becomes visible upon the recession of the glacier that forms it. When the ice recedes or thaws, the valley remains, often littered with small boulders that were transported within the ice. Floor gradient does not affect the valley's shape, it is the glacier's size that does. Continuously flowing glaciers - especially in the ice age - and large sized glaciers carve wide, deep incised valleys.

Examples of U-shaped valleys are found in every mountainous region that has experienced glaciation, usually during the Pleistocene ice ages. Most present U-shaped valleys started as V-shaped before glaciation. The glaciers carved it out wider and deeper, simultaneously changing the shape. This proceeds through the glacial erosion processes of glaciation and abrasion, which results in large rocky material (glacial till) being carried in the glacier. A material called boulder clay is deposited on the floor of the valley. As the ice melts and retreats, the valley is left with very steep sides and a wide, flat floor. A river or stream may remain in the valley. This replaces the original stream or river and is known as a misfit stream because it is smaller than one would expect given the size of its valley.

Other interesting glacially-carved valleys are the
* Yosemite Valley (USA)
* Side valleys of the Austrian river Salzach for their parallel directions and hanging mouths.
* Some Scottish glens full with bushes and flowers.
* That of the St. Mary River in Glacier National Park in Montana, USA.

Transition forms and valley shoulders

In some stress-tectonic regions of the Rockies or the Alps (e.g. Salzburg) the side valleys are parallel to each other, and additionally they are hanging. The brooks flow into the river in form of deep gorges or waterfalls. Usually this fact is the result of a violent erosion of the former valley shoulders. A special genesis we find also at arêtes and glacial cirques, at every Scottish glen, or a northern fjord.

Hanging valleys

A hanging valley is a tributary valley with the floor at a higher relief than the main channel into which it flows. They are most commonly associated with U-shaped valleys when a tributary glacier flows into a glacier of larger volume. The main glacier erodes a deep U-shaped valley with nearly vertical sides while the tributary glacier, with a smaller volume of ice, makes a shallower U-shaped valley. Since the surfaces of the glaciers were originally at the same elevation, the shallower valley appears to be ‘hanging’ above the main valley. Often, waterfalls form at or near the outlet of the upper valley. [cite web| title =Glossary of Glacier Terminology| work =| publisher =U.S. Geological Survey| date =May 28, 2004| url =| accessdate = 2007-05-24 ]

Valley floors

Usually the bottom of a main valley is broad - independent of the U or x shape. It typically ranges from about one to ten kilometers in width and is commonly filled with mountain sediments. The shape of the floor can be rather horizontal, similar to a flat cylinder, or terraced.

Side valleys are rather V than U-shaped; near the mouth clammies are possible if it is a hanging valley. The location of the villages depends on the across-valley profile, on climate and local traditions, and on the danger of avalanches or landslides. Predominant are places on terraces or alluvial fans if they exist.

Historic siting of villages within the mainstem valleys, however, have chiefly considered the potential of flooding.


A hollow is a small valley or dry stream bed. This term is commonly used in New England, Arkansas, Missouri and Pennsylvania to describe such geographic features. The term is also used in Southern Appalachia, but pronounced "holler." Hollows may be formed by river valleys such as Mansfield Hollow or they may be relatively dry clefts with a notch-like characteristic in that they have a height of land and consequent water divide in their bases. A hollow such as this is Boston Hollow. Tourists in Europe can further visit a lot of karst, stalactite and ice hollows (e.g. in Slovenia and Austria).

Famous valleys

* California Central Valley (United States)
* Copper Canyon
* Danube Valley (Eastern Europe, Wachau, Iron Gate)
* Death Valley (California)
* Glen Coe (Scotland)
* Grand Canyon (Arizona)
* Great Glen (Scotland)
* Great Rift Valley (from Jordan to the Red Sea and Lake Victoria)
* Indus Valley (Pakistan)
* Little Cottonwood Creek Valley, Utah
* Loire Valley with its famous castles (France)
* Nant Ffrancon Valley (Wales)
* Napa Valley (California)
* Nile Valley (Egypt)
* Okanagan Valley (Canada)
* Owens Valley (California)
* Panjshir Valley
* Upper Rhine Valley (an old graben system) (France)
* Rhone Valley from the Matterhorn to Grenoble and Lyon (France)
* Rio Grande Valley (United States)
* Shenandoah Valley (United States)
* Sonoma Valley, California, USA
* Valley of flowers (India)
* Valley of the Kings (Egypt)
* Valley of the Sun (Phoenix, Az, USA)
* San Fernando Valley (California)
* Santa Clara Valley, perhaps better known as "Silicon Valley" (California)
* South Wales Valleys (Wales)
* Valley of Mexico (Mexico), also known as "El Valle de México" see Mexico city

Rift valleys

Rift valleys, such as the Great Rift Valley, are formed by the expansion of the Earth's crust due to tectonic activity beneath the Earth's surface.

Extraterrestrial valleys

The other terrestrial planets and the moons of our Solar System can also have valley-like features. Lunar valleys can be formed from a linked chain of impact craters. Smaller valleys, known as rilles, may have originated from lava flows or from the contractions of cooling lava sheets.

Besides the lunar craters, the details of lunar mountain ranges have been well known for more than 300 years (e.g. J.H. Schröter's "Selenotopographische Fragmente" of 1791). A lot of linear phenomena like Rheita or Schröter valley and the famous Vallis Alpes (see also below) were observed with details less than 1 km (which corresponds to a coin seen from 5-10 km distance)—but the geological genesis was debated until the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Astronomers have long been able to observe some highlands and mountains on Mars, and therefore guessed that there may be valleys, as well. In the 1970s this interpretation was proven correct by results from space probes. Valleys have also been found on Mercury and on the volcanic surfaces of Venus and Io.

The largest valley in our solar system is the Valles Marineris formation on Mars. The "Valles" (which were first detected in 1877 by Schiaparelli) are a huge canyon system spanning 4,500 x 600 km in area and having a depth up to 8 km. These enormous dimensions are 4-8 times greater than those of the American Grand Canyon. The "Valles" is currently understood to have been created by tectonic forces like the main grabens on Earth, rather than by running water. Later, though, it may have been "expanded" considerably by erosion, possibly including the action of surface water.

Icy moons of the gas planets Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune were also photographed by the two Voyagers as well as by other space probes. Some linear ruptures in the ice or apparent low areas between hills have been interpreted by astrogeologists as tectonic structures or valleys similar to grabens or active geologic rifts on Earth.

ee also

* Canyon, Vale, Grass valley, Gorge, Channel, Gully
* Clammy, Cliff, Glacial landforms, Side valley
* Geography, Geomorphology, Geodynamics, Glaciology
* List of landforms, List of mountain ranges
* Geological features of the solar system, List of Lunar valleys
* Martian mountains, Lineaments on Europa, Geologic features on Titan, (escarpments and ruptures).


-expand|date=June 2008|Article. The Language is very terse, write for precocious 9-12 y.o.'s and up, not professionals.|full note:Language is very terse, write for precocious 9-12 y.o.'s and up, not professionals. Needs more meat, or take out half the images.
For example, nothing much about physical processes generating a valley. presumable a gulch grows to a gully to a Ravine to a hollow to a small valley. Such and each should be covered in brief imho.
user:Fabartus, copyedit/formatting 28 June 2008

External links

* [ Univ.of Wisconsin]
* [ Glacial moraine types (LEO dictionary)]
* [ Glossary of Alpine Glacial Landforms]
* [ SAR interferometry (analysis of valley forms in Fig.2 and 6)]
* [ Shoulder of the Swiss Calanca valley near Braggio]
* [ Typical valley sections (valleys and terrace valleys)]
* [ V-shaped valley]

Extraterrestrial valleys

* [ ESA image] : Vallis Alpes, bisecting the Lunar Alps
* [ Valles Marineris and Ophir Chasma] , bilingual website (English and German)

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Valley — Val ley, n.; pl. {Valleys}. [OE. vale, valeie, OF. val[ e]e, valede, F. vall[ e]e, LL. vallata, L. vallis, valles. See {Vale}.] [1913 Webster] 1. The space inclosed between ranges of hills or mountains; the strip of land at the bottom of the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Valley — Valley, NE U.S. city in Nebraska Population (2000): 1788 Housing Units (2000): 760 Land area (2000): 1.515030 sq. miles (3.923910 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.033750 sq. miles (0.087411 sq. km) Total area (2000): 1.548780 sq. miles (4.011321 sq.… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Valley-Hi — Borough de los Estados Unidos …   Wikipedia Español

  • valley — (n.) late 13c., from Anglo Norman valey, O.Fr. valee a valley, from V.L. *vallata, from L. vallis valley, of unknown origin. Valley Girl (in reference to San Fernando Valley of California) was popularized 1982 in song by Frank Zappa and his… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Valley — – Tal der Wächter ist ein phantastischer Roman des britischen Schriftstellers Jonathan Stroud. Das Werk ist unter dem englischen Originaltitel Heroes of the Valley 2009 erschienen. Auch die deutsche, 493 Seiten starke Übersetzung kam im Januar… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Valley, PA — Valley Hi, PA U.S. borough in Pennsylvania Population (2000): 20 Housing Units (2000): 29 Land area (2000): 0.504223 sq. miles (1.305932 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.064571 sq. miles (0.167238 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.568794 sq. miles… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Valley-Hi — Valley Hi, PA U.S. borough in Pennsylvania Population (2000): 20 Housing Units (2000): 29 Land area (2000): 0.504223 sq. miles (1.305932 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.064571 sq. miles (0.167238 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.568794 sq. miles… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Valley-Hi, PA — U.S. borough in Pennsylvania Population (2000): 20 Housing Units (2000): 29 Land area (2000): 0.504223 sq. miles (1.305932 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.064571 sq. miles (0.167238 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.568794 sq. miles (1.473170 sq. km)… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Valley Hi — Valley Hi, OH U.S. village in Ohio Population (2000): 244 Housing Units (2000): 113 Land area (2000): 0.658781 sq. miles (1.706236 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.658781 sq. miles (1.706236 sq …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Valley Hi, OH — U.S. village in Ohio Population (2000): 244 Housing Units (2000): 113 Land area (2000): 0.658781 sq. miles (1.706236 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.658781 sq. miles (1.706236 sq. km) FIPS code …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Valley, AL — U.S. city in Alabama Population (2000): 9198 Housing Units (2000): 4194 Land area (2000): 9.741416 sq. miles (25.230150 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 9.741416 sq. miles (25.230150 sq. km) FIPS… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places