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Cut bank erosion and point bar deposition as seen on the Powder River in Montana.
Cut banks along the Cut Bank Creek

A cut bank, also known as a river cliff or river-cut cliff, is the outside bank of a curve (meander) in a water channel (stream), which is continually undergoing erosion.[1] Cut banks are found in abundance along mature or meandering streams, they are located opposite the slip-off slope on the inside of the stream meander. They are shaped much like a small cliff, and are formed as the stream collides with the river bank. It is the opposite of a point bar, which is an area of deposition of material eroded upstream in a cut bank.

Typically, cut banks are steep and may be nearly vertical. Often, particularly during periods of high rainfall and higher-than average water levels, trees and poorly placed buildings can fall into the stream due to mass wasting events. Given enough time, the combination of erosion along cut banks and deposition along point bars can lead to the formation of an oxbow lake.

Not only are cut banks steep and unstable, they are also the area of a stream where the water is flowing the fastest and often deeper. In geology, this is known as an area of "high-energy".

A large meander on the Economy River. The cut bank is the near-vertical cliff on the outside of the meander.
Close-up view of a cut-bank on the Economy River, showing its steepness

See also


  1. ^ Essentials of Geology, 3rd Ed, Stephen Marshak