The fractal nature of river networks Academic Article uri icon


  • Ever since Mandelbrot (1975, 1983) coined the term, there has been speculation that river networks are fractals. Here we report analyses done on river networks to determine their fractal structure. We find that the network as a whole, although composed of nearly linear members, is practically space filling with fractal dimension near 2. The empirical results are backed by a theoretical analysis based on longstanding hydrologic concepts describing the geometric similarity of river networks. These results advance our understanding of the geometry and composition of river networks. Copyright 1988 by the American Geophysical Union.

published proceedings

  • Water Resources Research

altmetric score

  • 24.16

author list (cited authors)

  • Tarboton, D. G., Bras, R. L., & RodriguezIturbe, I.

citation count

  • 383

complete list of authors

  • Tarboton, David G||Bras, Rafael L||Rodriguez‐Iturbe, Ignacio

publication date

  • August 1988