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Difference between River and Lake

River and lake both are large water bodies of fresh water. These water bodies, while sharing lots of features, also have many differences. Let us see how they differ from each other!


The river is a large, natural water body of fresh water. It is a moving water body that generally starts from its origin which is mostly a glacier and travels hundreds of kilometers before emptying into the sea or ocean. In other words, it originates or starts its journey from high mountain ranges and ends at the seas or oceans.

The water of rivers moves in a particular direction along its banks. This water movement of rivers is known as current. The length of rivers varies too much as a river can be a few kilometers long or can be long enough to cross an entire continent. The Nile and Amazon rivers, which flow through several countries, are the longest rivers on the Earth.

The beginning of river is called source and its end point is called the mouth where it flows into a sea, ocean etc. The rivers are fed by rains, snowmelt and melting glaciers, some rivers flow throughout the year and some dry up during hot summers.


Lake is a standing water body of fresh water. It is surrounded by land on all sides except one point where it is fed by a stream, river, canal etc. They are inland water bodies so don't start and end their journey like rivers. They may not be as deep as rivers but are much deeper than ponds.

Lakes are also fed by freshwater in order to use them as a primary source of water for humans and animals. Lakes can be natural and artificial. The natural lakes are formed by natural phenomenon such as volcanic activity, glacial activity, tectonic movement, river erosion etc.

Artificial lakes are created to be used for harnessing hydro-electricity, agricultural or industrial use, recreational activities etc. Lake Tanganyika, which is made from a rift in the continental crust, is the longest lake in the world; Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world, it is also the largest lake by volume in the world.

Based on the above information, some of the key differences between River and Lake are as follows:

River Lake
It is a moving water body. It is a standing water body.
It is a natural water body. It can be natural or artificial water body.
It is fed by rains, snowmelt and melting glaciers. It is fed by streams, canals, and rivers.
It stars from one place and ends at other place after travelling a distance. It does not move from one place to other place.
It moves along its banks and is not surrounded by land on all sides. It is an inland water body surrounded by land on all sides.
It is connected with the sea or ocean where it empties itself. It is not connected to the sea, ocean etc. Some lakes may have seepage system to move out water.
It looks like a snake. It looks like a huge pond.
It is found all over the world, on every continent. It is mostly found in the northern half of the world.
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