Difference Between Lake and River

By: | Updated: Feb-7, 2023
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Difference Between Lake and River

Water is necessary for all animals, including reptiles, mammals, and insects. Many animals and plants actually live in places where there is plenty of water. But, many river and lake systems contain freshwater; many people live near rivers and lakes because they provide water to the animals. There are many different types a water body can be – rivers and lakes are very different things, but in the wrong circumstances, you may not be able to distinguish the two clearly.

Summary Table

Lake River
Unchanging body of water Water body that is moving Looks like a large pond Looks like a snake
Does not communicate with other water bodies in the interior. Moves along its water’s edge and interacts with other bodies of water
A source of freshwater A source of freshwater
Can aid in the production of hydroelectric energy. Can aid in the production of hydroelectric energy.

Rivers and lakes are the bodies of water in which fresh water resides. It does not take very long to notice the difference in the appearance of the river and lake. Rivers are a stream of water whose flow is constantly changing, but lakes are a reservoir of water whose flow is constant.

Rivers and lakes are just like the names of different kinds of land, they are also referring to the water that flows from them. Rivers are vast bodies of water that flow naturally. Lakes are very big bodies of water that are often viewed as a natural stream that flows through the land. As the definition of each word suggests, the positions of the two, the way that the water flows, and the way that water moves in these areas are very distinct. This is why there are major differences between a lake and a stream. If a watercourse was formed from a stream, it would be quite difficult to predict the course of a lake from a stream.

So, we’ll compare lakes and rivers in order to find out what is the difference between lake and river!

What is a Lake?

Lakes are bodies of water that remain mostly still but have very different sizes, whether they are formed from the ground or are artificial. It surrounds a large body of water that is large enough to be considered a lake because it has no connection to the ocean. A large and deep lake holds more water than ponds. Some experts say that a large body of water should be able to cover a large area (about 5 hectares) before it is officially designated as a “lake”.

Lakes are fed by water that flows from rivers and streams, and they are usually protected by a seepage system that allows water to seep out from beneath them rather than just evaporate. Lakes regularly produce clean water that allows people to drink and provide water for other animals. Lakes that people have artificially created to provide fresh water to people or for hydroelectric power generation.

Lakes contain a lot of water that is deep and can continue to flow, mainly from rivers, streams or water from rain. Lakes can be either man-created or formed naturally. Lakes contain mostly freshwater, although some saltwater lakes also occur.

It is possible for lakes to be either naturally formed or artificially created by humans. Lakes in the world are created naturally by various phenomena such as ice sheets melting or tectonically moving rivers. Lakes that people create are for domestic or commercial use, or for hydropower generation or for recreation purposes.

Most lakes on Earth are freshwater lakes. Lake Michigan-Huron in Michigan is currently the biggest lake on the planet by area. Lake Baikal is the deep lake that is thought to have existed for 40,000 years, and it is the deep lake that is thought to have existed for 10,000 years. Lake Tanganyika is a deep lake that has existed for 1,000 years.

Difference Between Lake and River

What is a River?

Rivers are fluid water bodies that flow with no stopping. Rivers are flat and move only in one direction. Rivers are very large, and the water that they provide is determined by the direction they travel. Rivers that are formed after rain falls at a high elevation or after melting a glacier are formed when water begins to seep down from the top of the mountain or when the ice is removed from a river. Rivers contain lots of fresh water, so they provide a regular source of food and water to humans and animals who live near them.

Rivers run through hills and valleys. They are long and move across the land to form rivers that flow into the seas and oceans. Originally rivers originated when there was a large cliff containing all the water that fell from it.

Rivers are like a channel for rivers, which are formed by water flowing through a mountain or valley. They drain to other rivers, which are often used for irrigation purposes. Rivers usually contain lots of fresh water, but they can become brackish when they reach the seas or oceans. Rivers run through the earth like rivers run through mountains.

Rivers usually stay underground for a very long time, and some people think that is why they look like they have been around for so long. Rivers are not man-generated; they are simply a valuable resource. But other times, dams may be built on river banks or they may be diverted for a variety of reasons.

How are They Related?

All the lakes in the world are open to people or they are completely enclosed. If you can see a river or another outlet that leads to a freshwater lake, you are already considered to have opened it. If water flows from a lake by a river or other outlet, the lake is said to be either opened or closed. If most of the water that is in a given lake is evaporating and cannot go elsewhere, it is said that the lake is closed.

When lakes are dried up, they become salines, or salty. Some lakes are formed by rivers that flow out into them from low-lying areas. Great Salt Lake, located in Utah, is the saltiest lake in North America. Its waters are salty, like the sea is salty. Some of the salt flat land around the lake is freshwater.

Some lakes may be formed by filling large basins with water, but others may be formed by dams that beavers build out of fallen tree branches or debris that smother rivers or make small lakes from muddy mud. Sometimes rivers create lakes by blocking the flow of water from flowing into them.

Rivers that have developed through many dams or channels create lakes by winding around the bottom of a plain, creating huge loops or lakes. During floods, a flooded river may become a shortcut across a river and flood a valley, creating a large body of water. Sometimes animals are able to form a large lake by creating a U-formed dam that prevents water from flowing into rivers.

What are the Differences?

Water movement

Rivers and lakes are constantly moving, but water on a lake is always still. Lakes remain a constant body of water, even though the river banks often recede. The lake water has no current because there is no wind, so there is a current that flows when wind blows. Lakes do not have a natural or artificial water flow, but they do have water that flows toward their outlet. Rivers are constantly moving because of the pressure that they receive from the water.


Lakes are naturally surrounded by land. Although rivers, streams, and rainwater feed them, none of these water sources have connections to other, bigger bodies of water. Rivers are not isolated by land. They are instead only constrained by their banks. Rivers flow until they approach an outlet, which could be the ocean or a larger river. For instance, the Mississippi River travels 2,200 miles through the US before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.


Lakes can be created by combining natural and artificial means. Lakes are created naturally by filling depressions in the earth’s surface with water. It’s very easy to create a lake from a small depression in the earth’s surface. Rivers flow as if they are part of a huge ocean that we are able to pump and move water through. It would take years to create an entire river entirely of man-made materials.

Water type

Lakes may be made of either saltwater or freshwater, but rivers are mostly made of freshwater. Most lakes are made of freshwater, but there are some lakes that are made of salt water. Salt Lake City is extremely salty and is thought to be 10 times saltier than the ocean. River water can flow either as fresh or as a mixture of fresh and saltwater. Because many streams and rivers are created by running water that has traveled throughout the hydrological cycle, river water is usually considered clean.

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