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Water gap

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Title: Water gap  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: The Narrows (Pennsylvania), Bald Eagle Mountain, Aliso Creek (Orange County), Hillsboro Gap, Santa Ana Canyon
Collection: Erosion Landforms, Structural Geology, Water Gaps
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Water gap

Wallula Gap, seen from Main Street in Wallula, Washington
Two water gaps opened by the same river in central Pennsylvania, foreground and background, separated by settlements in flat lands
View of water gaps cut by the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River through Evitts Mountain and Tussey Mountain, facing west from the summit of Kinton Knob, Wills Mountain, in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, with the town of Bedford in the foreground

A water gap is an opening or notch that flowing water has carved through a mountain range. Water gaps often offer a practical route for road and rail transport to cross mountain ridges.


A water gap is usually an indication of a river that is older than the current topography. The likely occurrence is that a river established its course when the landform was at a low elevation, or by a rift in a portion of the crust of the earth having a very low stream gradient and a thick layer of unconsolidated sediment.

In a hypothetical example, a river would have established its channel without regard for the deeper layers of rock. A later period of uplift would cause increased erosion along the riverbed, exposing the underlying rock layers. As the uplift continued, the river, being large enough, would continue to erode the rising land, cutting through ridges as they formed.

Water gaps are common in the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians of eastern North America.

Alternatively, a water gap may be formed through headward erosion of two streams on opposite

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