From Raindrops To Rivers

 ” … in this beauty is the power of rain. It is a life force required by all living things. It is a shaping force that defines both our earth’s surface and how we live. And, it is a connecting force because water is central to everything.” — In Praise Of Rain                                                                                                                                                                        


The beautiful raindrop is a connecting force in Nature. Water is the ultimate chemical solvent and transporter in the functioning of life on earth. That raindrop it is also the beginning of a river. It can be transformed from a beautiful reflecting globe to a forceful, high energy fractal shaped river that transports water to all forms of life and directly affects the shape and composition of inanimate forms of Nature.

It all starts when that rain drop falls on a patch of soil. At first, the raindrop is absorbed into the soil – perhaps percolating by way of gravitational force to a sub-surface water table sometimes called an aquifer.   As more rain drops make contact with the soil, the soil becomes saturated and a thin sheet of water, called surface run-off,  rests on the soil surface. The impact of raindrops on bare ground dislodges soil particles and causes rain splash erosion on a very small scale. The sheet of runoff water travels a short distance, but an interplay between gravity, the slope of the soil surface, the composition of the soil surface, and the water now begins to take place.

The water becomes turbulent and forms into rivulets. If the soil surface is sloped, gravity causes the rivulets to move downward in a path that is defined by the nature of the soil surface. Small soil grains are moved by the water. But, large grains and rocks cause the water to move around them. Small channels in the soil are created. With sufficient rainfall, the rivulets join together to form streams and gouge gullies in the land. From this interaction between soil and water, streams of water become guided by gravity and soil to become joined with other streams to become larger streams. These dynamics result in the self-similar fractal structure which we know as a river system. This river system has the same shape and structure as does our lungs, trees, and our cardiovascular system.  

From the mountains to its delta, a river does not just flow. It also changes the surface of the earth. It cuts rocks, moves boulders, and deposits sediments, constantly attempting to carve away all of the mountains in its path, Ultimately a river can create a wide, flat valley where it can flow smoothly towards an ocean.

And, it all started with that beautiful raindrop.        

Rivers in Nature are classic examples of how energy flows in and between patterns in Nature. How everything is connected. Like soil erosion,  this energy flow can define the design of a pattern in Nature. This phenomena is the basis for Adrian Bejan’s Constructal Theory which proposes that the shape and structure of patterns in Nature arise to facilitate energy flow. In a future blog , I will offer  Bejan’s theory on how the energetic flow dynamics of a river is so much like other patterns in Nature. Stay tuned and remember that we are all connected.

In my next blog, I will discuss the San Pedro River system and the impact this system has with other patterns in Nature.

Thanks for reading this blog post. The purpose for these blogs is to develop a dialog between myself and my readers. You are encouraged to offer your comments in the space provided below.

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My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.

5 Responses to “From Raindrops To Rivers”

  1. Bill…came upon your blog after having an aha moment with my artistic expressions, wabi-sabi and certainly love of nature… have very poetic expressions!

    This recent Blog has provided more food for my paintings which rely upon water, air, paint viscosity and the natural flows that result. You have now introduced me to Adrian’s Constructal Theory which validates and verbalizes much of what I have felt and expressing all along …..without labeling it.

    I intend to paint a series of paintings expressing the idea “From Raindrops to Rivers” which is very poetic by itself! Of course I will reference and quote my source.

    I will forward some of my paintings if you are interested.


    • Hello David:

      Thank you very much for the feedback. I love working with artists. Yes, please forward your paintings, I’d love to see them. I can easily reference your work in a blog hyperlink as well.


  2. @Bill Graham

    Hello Bill,

    I have jpeg images of some of my paintings “From Raindrops to Rivers”. How can I get them to you?



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