U-shaped Valleys: Formation, Examples and Difference Between U-shaped Valley and V-shaped Valley | Earth Eclipse (2023)

Valleys are of many kinds, however, among valleys mostly found formations are either U-shaped valley or V-shaped valley. U shaped valleys are found all over the world and are very common in mountain ranges, mainly where glaciers are formed or in previously glaciated mountainous areas.

U-shaped valleys usually have a distinct U-shaped outline, high, straight and steep walls and a rounded or flat bottom. These are thousands of feet deep and several miles in length.

Table of Contents

  • Formation of U-shaped Valleys
  • 4 Classic Examples of U-shaped Valleys
    • 1. Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California, USA
    • 2. Glacier National Park, Montana, USA
    • 3. Zezere Valley, Portugal
    • 4. Nant Ffrancon Valley, Snowdonia, Wales
  • Differences between U-shaped Valley and V-shaped Valley

Formation of U-shaped Valleys

This geographical formation occurred primarily due to glacial erosion and also referred to as a trough valley or a glacial trough. U-shaped valley occurs typically in the V-shaped valley already existing. It takes 10,000 to 100,000 years by glaciers to flatten out the bottom of V-shaped valley and convert it into a U-shaped valley. The effect of glaciers is profound on the topography (lay of the land) as up to billion-ton ice cubes rearranged the landscape grinding its way overland slowly.

When temperatures are low, the cool climate results in the formation of glaciers along the mountain top and erosion process occurs. Glaciers start to move after they are formed and travel across slowly sliding down the side of the mountains carving the valley by the action called scouring. As the movement of the glaciers gets constrained by the V-shaped valley, the force is concentrated in the floor.

The glacier digs into the ground, making the bottom of the valley flat which is the characteristic of U-shaped valleys. More the floor of the valley widens, more the surrounding sides get eroded further, thereby ultimately leading to the high and steep sides. After the glacier retreats, a flat-bottomed, steep-walled U-shaped valley is left behind. When the ice thaws or recedes, the valley is often littered with small boulders carried within the ice, called glacial till or glacial erratic.

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There are two main variations of this U-shape. The first variation remains in the form of the Rocky Mountain model that is attributed to alpine glacial valleys with an overall deepening effect on the valley. The Patagonia-Antarctica model, on the other hand, represents the second variation, which is attributed to continental ice sheets and portrays an overall widening effect on its surroundings.

4 Classic Examples of U-shaped Valleys

U-shaped valleys are mostly found in the mountainous regions such as the Alps, Caucasus Mountains, Himalaya, Rocky Mountains, Canada, and New Zealand. They are also found in other major European mountains like the Carpathian Mountains, the Pyrenees, Rila and Pirin mountains in Bulgaria, the Scottish Highlands and those in Scandinavia. A classic glacial trough is in Glacier National Park in Montana, in the USA in which the St. Mary River runs. One of the famous U-shaped valleys is the Nant Ffrancon Valley in Snowdonia, Wales.

Some of the well-known U-shaped valleys from around the world are detailed below.

1. Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Yosemite National Park in the United States is home to several U-shaped valleys. Yosemite Valley, the glacial U-shaped valley is located in the Yosemite National Park in the west of Sierra Nevada Mountains of Central California. The valley is approx. 3000–3500 feet deep and about 7.5 miles (12 km) long. High granite summits like Half Dome and El Capitan surround it. U-shaped valleys in Yosemite National Park are seen from this well-known Half Dome rock formation where glacier paved its way through the Granite Mountains.

The bottom of the valley is densely forested with pines and filled with a forest habitat. The Merced River and other streams and waterfalls drained the valley. Yosemite Falls, which is the highest waterfall in North America, is a big attraction mainly in spring.

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The valley is the centerpiece of Yosemite National Park for its scenic wonders. It is famous for its natural environment, attracting visitors, especially in summer. They enter the valley by roads to the west and pass through the Tunnel View entrance, and visitor facilities are located in the center of the valley. Glacier Point offers the best views of the valley.

2. Glacier National Park, Montana, USA

This American national park is located in northwestern Montana, and the enormous glaciers of the last ice age carved them into their present shapes. Although the glaciers have mostly disappeared over the previous 12,000 years, evidence of widespread glacial action is still visible throughout the park in the form of U-shaped valleys.

Here the McDonald Valley is an excellent example of a U-shaped valley as seen from Going-to-the-Sun Road two miles or more from “the Loop.” The St.Mary River flows through a U-shaped valley in Glacier National Park. The valley begins from where the river starts, which itself starts as a stream below Gunsight Mountain, at 9,263 feet above sea level and is covered in glaciers.

3. Zezere Valley, Portugal

The glacier-scoured Zêzere Valley (Vale do Zêzere) is one of the most significant natural features of Serra da Estrela and also one of the best examples of how ice molded the mountain landscape. All the characteristics of a U-shaped glacial landscape are present in the Zezere Valley.

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The valley was originated 20,000 years ago when the thick ice sheet covered the plateau and was damaged due to an increase in atmospheric temperatures. Its steep slopes and waterfalls are chaotically strewn with boulders and dotted with sparse vegetation.

Half-way along this straight line, Cântaro Magro summit and the pyramid of Torre emerges from the jagged edge of the glacial cirque. The road passes very close to the source of the Zezere, “Cantaros” which is accessible on foot to enjoy the magnificent and incomparable beauty of the valley.

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4. Nant Ffrancon Valley, Snowdonia, Wales

Nant Ffrancon Valley in the north Snowdonia, Wales is known as a steep-sided deeply glaciated valley and famous for its outstanding views. The valley starts in Cwm Idwal, and carries water from Llyn-y-Cwn through Twll Du and Llyn Idwal and meets the Ogwen Valley just below the Ogwen Falls on Afon Ogwen. The road starting from the western end of Llyn Ogwen to Bethesda in Snowdonia passes through the valley of Nant Ffrancon.

British film-makers have frequently used the valley as a filming location including doubling for the Khyber Pass in the Carry On film Carry On up the Khyber and doubling for the Himalayas in the Doctor Who serial The Abominable Snowmen. The 1950s movie, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, also filmed in this location.

Differences between U-shaped Valley and V-shaped Valley

U-shaped and V-shaped valleys have distinguishing features which make them different. U-shaped valleys are unique as they have much broader bases with steep and straight walls compared to typical V-shaped valleys, which have narrow bottoms and steep walls having V-shape in the cross-section.

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Glacial erosion causes the formation of U-shaped valleys, whereas V-shaped valleys are the result of carving by the rivers through their course.

U-shaped valley walls are straighter than V-shaped valleys due to the non-bending glacier’s movement.

Glaciers do not get influenced easily by rock hardness as are rivers. They bulldoze ahead, straightening out twisty river valleys.

A glacier sculpts the land in ways that are different from flowing water. A river occupies a small U-shaped channel in the bottom of a V-shaped valley whereas a glacier carves out the whole valley into a U-shape.

Sources:

https://www.nps.gov/articles/ushapedvalleysfjordshangingvalleys.htm

https://www.usgs.gov/media/images/yosemite-valley-california-example-a-u-shaped-glacial-valley

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FAQs

What is the difference in how a V shaped valley and a U-shaped valley formed? ›

V-shaped valleys are formed due to intense erosion by rivers along the riverbed while U-shaped valleys are formed by the continuous movement of glaciers and the resultant erosion along the entire glacial channel.

What are examples of U-shaped valleys? ›

A classic glacial trough is in Glacier National Park in Montana, USA in which the St. Mary River runs. Another well-known U-shaped valley is the Nant Ffrancon valley in Snowdonia, Wales.

What is the example of V shaped valley? ›

The Grand Canyon in the Southwest of the United States illustrates a V-shaped valley. The Colorado River carved a V-shaped canyon with steep sides out of the Colorado Plateau's rock after millions of years of erosion. This canyon is now known as the Grand Canyon.

What is V shaped valley Short answer? ›

V-shaped valleys are carved out by the river in their youthful stages. They are formed by the erosional actions of the rivers. Their shapes are of the letter of the English alphabet V. They are associated with gorges, canyons etc.

What makes a valley V shaped? ›

Rivers begin high up in the mountains so they flow quickly downhill eroding the landscape vertically. The river cuts a deep notch down into the landscape using hydraulic action, when the sheer force of the water gets into small cracks and breaks down the sides of the river valley.

What are two conditions for the formation of V shaped valley? ›

V-shaped valleys are mostly formed in higher altitudes with steep slopes where the force of the river is stronger. Fast flowing water carrying sediments cut the surface straight downwards at a rapid pace. This is called vertical erosion.

Is it possible for a V shaped valley to form inside a U-shaped valley? ›

These rocks, along with the force of the ice, wear away the land like sandpaper. Valleys that were originally V-shaped in cross section are carved into deep U-shaped valleys by glaciers.

What is a V-shaped canyon? ›

The fast flowing rivers with steep gradients create these valleys in the upper course of the river. In V-shaped valley, the first cuts are made by flowing rivers and streams. The very steep-walled sides along with a narrow floor look like the letter “V” from a distance. Therefore it is called the V-shaped valley.

How are V-shaped valleys formed step by step? ›

V-shaped valley

The river cuts a deep notch down into the landscape using hydraulic action, corrasion and corrosion. As the river erodes downwards the sides of the valley are exposed to freeze-thaw weathering which loosens the rocks (some of which will fall into the river) and steepens the valley sides.

How are V-shaped valleys formed quizlet? ›

A V-shaped valley is a narrow valley with steeply sloped sides that appear similar to the letter "V" from a cross-section. They are formed by strong streams, that have cut down into the rock through downcutting/stream erosion. These valleys form in streams in their upper course.

What is the meaning of I shaped valley? ›

When the sides of the valley are almost parallel to each other, they form an 'I' shape and hence, these valleys are known as I shaped valley.

What type of erosion creates V-shaped valleys? ›

Vertical erosion processes wear away the rock in upper valleys. As can be seen above, V-shaped valleys are a RONSEAL word - they describe exactly what is in the tin! As the river erodes vertically down over it leaves behind valley sides that are shaped like a letter V .

What kind of erosion is most likely in a V-shaped valley? ›

V-shaped valleys are created by vertical erosion (a). As the river erodes downwards freeze-thaw weathering loosens material, which is moved downhill by soil creep (gravity) (b). This creates the characteristic v-shaped valley only found in the upper course of the river. It is steep sided and narrow.

How are U-shaped valleys formed? ›

U-shaped valleys form through glacial erosion. Glaciation develops in established v-shaped river valleys where the ice erodes the surrounding rocks to create a “U” shaped valley.

What do you call the V-shaped? ›

synonyms for V-shaped

jagged. akimbo. crooked. crotched. divaricate.

How are V-shaped streams formed? ›

The V-shaped valley is typical of one that has been carved by flowing water. The erosion is more pronounced when the water flow is a heavy one, and the water carries suspended particles (sedimentary load).

Is a V shaped valley formed by wind water or ice? ›

Valleys are one of the most common landforms on the surface of the planet. They are carved by flowing water or flowing ice through the process of erosion, which is the gradual wearing away of Earth surfaces through the action of wind and water.

What is V-shaped in geography? ›

A V-valley is formed by erosion from a river or stream over time. It is called a V-valley as the shape of the valley is the same as the letter “V”.

Are deltas V-shaped? ›

A river delta is a landform shaped like a triangle, created by deposition of sediment that is carried by a river and enters slower-moving or stagnant water. This occurs where a river enters an ocean, sea, estuary, lake, reservoir, or (more rarely) another river that cannot carry away the supplied sediment.

What is V geography? ›

Valleys are depressed areas of land–scoured and washed out by the conspiring forces of gravity, water, and ice. Some hang; others are hollow. They all take the form of a "U" or "V."

What is I shaped valley or canyon? ›

The main difference between canyon and valley is that canyons are deeper and have steeper sides than valleys. Canyons and valleys are two landforms created by running rivers and erosion. A valley is a depressed area of land between mountains or hills, while a canyon is a deep and narrow valley having steep sides.

How is a wide U-shaped valley formed? ›

U-shaped valleys are the result of glaciers moving downhill and 'scouring' the earth with friction as gravity pulls the glacier from the top of an elevated area to the bottom. The huge size and heavy weight of the glacier creates a thick, slush-like layer of ice and water beneath the ice mass.

Why are glacial valleys U-shaped rather than V-shaped? ›

glacial valleys

valley is converted to a U-shaped valley because the U-shape provides the least frictional resistance to the moving glacier. Because a glacier has a much greater viscosity and cross section than a river, its course has fewer and broader bends, and thus, the valley becomes straighter and smoother.

What is the difference between Canyon and U-shaped valley? ›

The main difference between canyon and valley is that canyons are deeper and have steeper sides than valleys. Canyons and valleys are two landforms created by running rivers and erosion.

Is it possible for a V-shaped valley to form inside a U-shaped valley? ›

These rocks, along with the force of the ice, wear away the land like sandpaper. Valleys that were originally V-shaped in cross section are carved into deep U-shaped valleys by glaciers.

Where are V-shaped valleys found? ›

V-shaped valleys are usually found in the mountains and hills. They are so called because they often have very steep sides. V-shaped valleys are formed by erosion.

Where are V-shaped valleys and U-shaped valleys formed how can these be identified on a topo sheet? ›

V-shaped valleys : A V-shaped valley is easily identified on a contour map with the contour lines close to each other and a very dominant V. U-shaped valleys : The contour lines of these valleys are bent in a distinct U-shape.

What are the basic difference between glacial valleys and river valleys? ›

2 What are the basic differences between glacial valleys and river valleys? As valley formation is dependent on the gradient as rivers carry less water during their youthful stages. Glacial valleys mainly are U-shaped and they are wide whereas river valleys are V-shaped and narrower.

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