Difference Between River and Creek (With Table)

Most of the surface of the earth is covered with water. These water bodies can be in different forms and sizes. An accumulation of water on the surface of the earth is known as a water body. The different forms of such water bodies include lakes, rivers, oceans, creek, ponds, or wetlands. Oceans are the largest among these.

Some of the water bodies may be artificial, while some may be naturally occurring. Rivers and Creeks are names given to the water flowing on the surface of the earth.

These are two interesting water bodies, that are almost identical, which makes it difficult to differentiate the two. Both of these water bodies aid the circulation of the water on the earth’s surface. They also serve as habitats for a great deal of lives, including animal and plant species. However, there are a few differences between both of these water bodies.

River vs Creek

The main difference between a river and a creek is that a creek is a slim channel that is edged by islands. It does not branch out and has multiple routes. On the other hand, a river is a water body that drifts out and forms branches and has tributaries. 


Comparison Table Between River and Creek

Parameter of Comparison




A river is larger and deeper than a creek.

A creek is shallower and mostly smaller than a river.


Rivers have many tributaries and they flow in channels.

Creeks do not drift out and form branches.


Rivers mostly flow to the sea.

Creeks may be established by the water of the sea.

Generation of power

Rivers can be a source of power generation.

Creeks lack the sufficient power to be tapped for power generation.


Rivers being huge, serve as a great means of transportation.

Creeks being shallow and small in size, cannot be used for transportation.


What is a River?

A river is a water body like a ribbon, that flows downward, originating from high mountain ranges, snowpack water, glaciers, or any such natural sources. The water in the river can be filled by the melting glaciers, snowmelts, or even by the rains. Rivers run for a large number of kilometers and usually end at the seas or oceans.

The source, which is also known as the headwater, is the point at which the river starts and the mouth is where the river ends, which is generally the ocean or sea. Current is the water movement in the rivers. Sometimes in the hot seasons, the river water dries and hence the size of the river varies.  A few rivers flow throughout the year, while some flow during heavy rains and certain seasons.

The Amazon and the Nile are the longest rivers in the world and they flow through many countries, running for a thousand miles.

The rivers have freshwater and serve as a habitat for various living creatures. They are an important source of living for human life and without rivers, life might not have been possible.

A few advantages of rivers include:

  1. Rivers help in power generation.
  2. They also help to transport heavy objects and goods.
  3. Farmers use the water of the river for irrigation and agricultural activities.
  4. Rivers help to make the land fertile by soil erosion.
  5. They help to carry and transport nutrients and water all around the world.
  6. Rivers also serve as a source of drinking water.
  7. They can be used for boating, swimming, and such other leisure activities.

Rivers also have a few disadvantages:

  1. Dumping of agricultural wastes into the rivers, make the water fatal, and are dangerous for the marine life as well.
  2. The factories also dump the chemical wastes into the rivers, which affect human and marine life.
  3. Sometimes rivers also cause floods, which destroys crops and renders many people homeless.

What is a Creek?

A creek is a small stream or a water body that is small and shallow. They are usually known as a branch of a river. They do not drift out and form tributaries or branches.

The word ‘creek’ has slightly different meanings in different countries. In Australia, New Zealand, and North America, creeks refer to small streams. In India, or the United Kingdom, a narrow inlet or passage to the sea, is referred to as a creek.

A few advantages of creek include:

  1. Creeks serve as a livelihood for marine life.
  2. The water in the creek can be used for agricultural activities.
  3. Creeks are also a source of drinking water

Creeks also have a few disadvantages:

  1. Creeks are small and so they cannot help in transportation.
  2. They cannot help to generate power or electricity.
  3. Dumping of wastes into the creeks makes it hazardous for humans as well as marine life.

Main Differences Between River and Creek

  1. The word ‘creek’ is mostly used for water bodies that are large. However, a creek is shallower and smaller than a river, which is a big source of water.
  2. Rivers have many tributaries and branches and they usually flow in channels. On the other hand, creeks do not form any branches. They sometimes can be a branch of a river.
  3. Rivers are water bodies that usually flow to the sea, while the creek is a water body that may be formed by the sea.
  4. Rivers are a huge source of water and help transport heavy objects, whereas creeks are small and so cannot transport objects downstream.
  5. Rivers can be used to generate power, which is not in the case of creeks. They are too small to generate power.



According to the Water Science Site, the two terms River and Creek are almost the same and can be used interchangeably. There are no scientific or official guidelines to differentiate the two of them. The most common difference between them is their size. Rivers are larger and deeper in comparison to creeks. A creek mainly starts from a natural spring, high mountain ranges, glaciers, snowpack waters, or such sources of water, and then they eventually flow into another big water source, such as a river.