Difference Between Stream and Creek

Stream vs Creek

The difference between stream and creek is more related to the region the word is used than any other. Now, as we all have experienced, water bodies are always very refreshing whether you are near a river, stream, brook or a creek. Water is pleasurable and desirable in all forms, and this is why nearly all vacation spots are near water bodies. Any water body with a steady current confined within a bed is referred to as stream, and depending upon its location and features, a stream may be called a creek. However, some people will say that stream and creek are different things. Some people will say they are the same thing but are referred using two names in different regions. Let us see what it is.

What is a Stream?

Streams originate from mountainous water bodies or may come out of underground water sources. But either way, they make an important part of the water cycle. They are habitat for fish and also a source of wildlife migration. When the stream is large and natural, it is called a river. Without a difference to the region of the world, whether it is UK or US, people refer to a small, narrow body of water that is smaller than a river as a stream. Streams make up most of the water resources of a country.

Difference Between Stream and Creek

Rocky stream in Italy

What is a Creek?

When water bodies make their way from the mountains towards the ocean, they vary in sizes. At places, a small stream is referred to as a creek. So, in terms of size, river is the largest with stream coming second and the smallest of the three being referred to as creek.

The water current, when it emerges from the mountains is called a creek and, after waterfall, it is called a stream. Actually in mountainous regions, when rain falls, it flows and runs downhill. Water gets collected in tiny channels. These channels join with other channels and a creek is formed. A creek is narrower and shallower than a river.

When it comes to creeks and streams, creeks are always more famous and spectacular than streams which is reflected in famous creeks around the world such as Canyon Creek in the US. The depth and width of a creek changes during its course but, in general, it is shallower than a stream into which it gets converted.

Stream vs Creek

Ridley Creek

When it comes to the word creek, there is some difference to what you mean by it in British and American English. In British English, according to the Oxford English dictionary, a creek is ‘a narrow, sheltered waterway, especially an inlet in a shoreline or channel in a marsh.’ The Oxford English dictionary also states that, in the North American, Australian and New Zealand context, a creek is ‘a stream or minor tributary of a river.’ It is not so defined as in British English. If we focus on the definition given to creek by British people, they use the term creek mainly to refer to tidal water channels. For example, if we take the River Thames, all the rivers that flow into River Thames in the tidal section become Creeks. This is with reference to tidal channels only. Also, as you can see creek is also used as a synonym to stream.

What is the difference between Stream and Creek?

• A stream is defined as any water body with current that moves under gravity to lower levels.

• A creek is a small stream of water that is inland.

• Creek is more turbulent than a stream.

• Creek is shallower and also narrower than a stream.

• Stream carries the same meaning even in different regions in the world. We call a water body that is smaller than a river a stream.

• When it comes to creek, however, there is a remarkable fact. What British people refer to when they say creek and what North American, Australian, and New Zealand people refer to when they say creek are two different things. British creek is a very narrow and sheltered waterway. They actually refer to a tidal water channel by using the word creek. On the other hand, North American, Australian, and New Zealand refer to a stream or water body that is smaller than a river as a creek.

• Creek in some parts is used as a synonym for a stream.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Rocky stream in Italy by Eleassar (CC BY-SA 3.0)
  2. Ridley Creek by David Saddler (CC BY 2.0)