What Is the Difference Between a Canyon and a Gorge?

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A gorge is a much smaller, narrower version of a canyon. A gorge is similar to a ravine, while a canyon is similar to a valley. Gorges are located between mountains or hills and often have small streams at their bottoms.

A gorge has rocky, steep walls caused by natural factors like erosion. A canyon is a narrow deep valley formed by water erosion or tectonic activity. More similarities between gorges and canyons exist than differences. Both canyons and gorges are formed from water erosion. However, most gorges are formed from geologic uplifts caused by earthquakes and orogeny. As the Earth’s surface moves upward to create mountains, the softer material erodes away to form gorges. Glaciers, melting ice and lava flows all contribute to the formation of gorges as well.

Canyons may form through tectonic activity. As tectonic plates collide, they shift across the Earth’s surface. Tectonic uplift causes parts of the crust to rise, forming plateaus and mountains. As water moves along the elevated surfaces, sediment erodes to form canyons with entrenched rivers at the bottoms. Canyons can also be found beneath the ocean. A two-mile deep canyon exists in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Monterey Bay.