Difference Between River and Lake

A Waterbody is an accumulation of water, generally on the earth’s surface. These may include oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, and also small pools of water such as wetlands or ponds.

Some water bodies are naturally occurring while some may be artificial.

River vs Lake

The main difference between River and Lake is the movement of its water. A river runs along its banks and flows in one direction.

On the contrary, a lake is immobile. Therefore it is regarded as a still water body.

River vs Lake

Rivers and Lakes are large water bodies of freshwater. A river is a natural water body that is not stable i.e. it keeps moving.

On the other hand, a lake is a water body which is still. It can be natural or even artificial.

Lakes, reservoirs, and also wetlands play an important role in river ecosystems as they influence water quality and water quantity.


Comparison Table Between River and Lake (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonRiverLake
AppearanceIt looks like a snake.It looks like a big pond.
CreationIt is a naturally occurring water body.It may be natural or artificial.
MovementA river is a moving water body.A lake is a still water body.
EnclosureIt is not enclosed by land on all sides.A lake is enclosed by land on all sides.
ConnectionRivers are connected with the seas or oceans.Lakes are not connected with any sea or ocean.


What is River?

A river is a long natural water body of freshwater. It is the primary source of water for living beings.

A river is a running water body that usually originates from glaciers or high mountain ranges. It runs for hundreds of kilometers and ends at the oceans or seas.

The point from where the river originates is called the source and its endpoint is called the mouth where it empties itself into the sea or ocean. The water of the river moves in a definite direction along its banks.

This movement of water in the rivers is called current. The river water can be filled by rains, snowmelt or melting glaciers.

The length of rivers differs as they can be some kilometers long or might even be long enough to cross a full continent. The size may also vary due to the drying out of water in the rivers during the hot seasons.

The longest rivers on the Earth are The Nile and Amazon rivers flowing through various countries.

Rivers are so much significance to human life that without the rivers human life on the earth would not be possible.

Advantages of River:

  1. Farmers use river banks and also its water for agriculture.
  2. It helps in trade and commerce.
  3. It helps in the transportation of goods.
  4. Rivers help in generation of electricity.
  5. It carries water and nutrients to areas around the earth.
  6. River helps in soil erosion making the land fertile.

Along with the numerous advantages, rivers also have certain drawbacks. It may cause vast floods thereby destroying crops, cattle and homes rendering people homeless.


What is Lake?

A lake is a standing water body which may be of different sizes. It may either be formed naturally or artificially. Lakes are surrounded by land on all sides excluding the part where it is drained by streams, canals or rivers.

They are inland bodies of water and hence do not originate or end like rivers having no connections with the oceans.

Lakes are filled with fresh water, and hence are a primary source of food and water for living beings. They are much deeper than ponds but not as deep as rivers.

It is said that a water body should be at least 2-5 hectares wide in order to be considered a lake. Artificial lakes are used for harnessing hydroelectricity.

Natural Lakes are formed by natural occurrence such as glacial activities, tectonic movements, river erosion, volcanic activities, and so on. Artificial lakes are made in order to be used for agricultural or industrial use, producing hydroelectricity, fun activities and so on.

The longest lake in the world is Lake Tanganyika whereas the deepest and largest lake by volume is Lake Baikal. The largest lake on earth by surface area is Lake Michigan-Huron.

Lakes not only provide us with numerous environmental benefits but also influence the quality of life and help to strengthen the economy.

Advantages of Lakes:

  1. They can be used as an irrigation source for agriculture.
  2. Lakes can reduce the impact of floods.
  3. They provide opportunities for tourism and recreation.
  4. They help to refill groundwater.

Types of Lakes:

  1. Organic lakes
  2. Volcanic lakes
  3. Glacial lakes
  4. Tectonic lakes
  5. Fluvial lakes
  6. Landslide lakes
  7. Solution lakes
  8. Aeolian lakes

Main Differences Between River and Lake

  1. Rivers move along its banks and connect with other water bodies. Lakes, on the other hand, do not communicate with any water body.
  2. The river is a flowing body of freshwater whereas a lake is a standing body of water.
  3. The river looks like a snake. Lake looks like a huge pond.
  4. Rivers are natural water bodies whereas lakes may be natural or manmade.
  5. Rivers are found all over the world, every type of land and every continent. Lakes are found in the northern half of the world.
  6. A river starts from one point and travels a long distance before ending in another place. Lakes do not move from one place to another.
  7. Rains, melting snows or melting glaciers feed rivers. Streams, canals, and rivers feed lakes.
Difference Between River and Lake



Freshwater on the earth surface is an important part of the water cycle for existing human life. Unlike the sea, rivers and lakes are both freshwater sources. They support aquatic ecosystems.

Rivers are water bodies moving in one direction towards the ocean, sea or another water body. Lakes are still water bodies surrounded by land.

Both Rivers and Lakes help us in their own unique ways and are valuable resources which must be preserved well.


  1. https://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/t71-004
  2. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/abs/10.1098/rstb.2001.0991
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