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Delta Lesson for Kids: Definition, Formation & Facts

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Deltas are created as rivers empty into larger bodies of water. In this lesson, learn the definition of a delta, how a delta is formed, and discover facts about famous deltas.

What is a Delta?

Imagine a peaceful, flowing river. Where do you think the river ends? What might you find there? River waters are always flowing toward a larger body of water, like an ocean or a sea. Sometimes, an area is created called a delta.

A delta is a wetland area that forms as river waters empty into a larger body of water. Often, deltas look triangular in shape and sometimes, they are even described as looking like a fan.

This is a satellite view of the triangular shaped Lena Delta in Russia.
delta

How Deltas are Formed

So how are these wetland areas created? Think back to that peaceful, flowing river. What do you think happens as the river flows along the Earth's surface? It collects dirt and rock called sediment. This sediment flows along with the river until it is dumped at the river's mouth, which is where it empties in to the larger body of water. As this sediment collects, low-lying plains are created and a delta is formed.

Deltas like this one in the Florida Everglades are created by sediment collecting at the mouth of a river.
delta

A Very Famous Delta

What comes to your mind when you think of the ancient Egyptians? You probably think of pyramids or pharaohs, but none of that would have been possible without the Nile River Delta. This area is where the Nile River empties into the Mediterranean Sea.

While the Nile River flows through some hot, desert areas, the Nile River Delta provided ancient Egyptians with very fertile land. when land is called fertile, it means that the land was rich in nutrients and made for a good place for the Egyptians to grow crops.

The Nile River Delta, with its famous triangular shape, was key to the success of ancient Egypt.
delta

What's in a Name?

Although the ancient Egyptians gathered around a famous river delta, the ancient Greeks were the source for the word 'delta.' Delta is a letter in the Greek alphabet, and the symbol for this letter is a triangle. It's a name that definitely fits because many deltas are shaped like triangles.

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