What are the criteria to determine if river A is a major or minor tributary to another River B?

Is stream order the only deciding factor i.e. the highest order is the main stem, one less order is a major tributary and one more lesser order is a minor tributary?

I haven't been able to find any literature on this online.

  • Since this is a GIS based stack exchange, it might help if you list what programs you're using or what you have tried.
    – GISHuman
    Jun 5 '14 at 13:09

The method of classification (Strahler, Leopold and Wolman, Whiting and Bradley, etc) of order that you choose will determine what is considered a tributary, as not all methods will yield the same results.

Here is a paper on stream classification in a GIS Here is a jumping off point for you about determining stream order, you may also want to try cross posting this to the earth science stack exchange.

  • Thanks! I do know about the stream order classifications, however what I do not know is the role it plays if at all in determining MINOR tributaries to a river. As there are people in the field of hydrology use GIS often, that is the reason I posted here. I have also cross posted in other stack exchange.
    – naga
    Jun 5 '14 at 13:22
  • How are you classifying the minor tributaries? Do you have information as to the length/width/velocity?
    – GISHuman
    Jun 5 '14 at 13:26
  • I am working with the NHD Dataset, so I do not have to calculate the stream order, it is already available. I have determined the tributaries to a river and I am looking to identify if a tributary is a major or minor tributary. I am not looking for a specific GIS solution, just information on what are the properties of a minor tributary.
    – naga
    Jun 5 '14 at 13:29

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