A landform can be shapes and formed in only a few years or millions of years.

A quarter of the Earth's surface is land. Any natural physical feature of Earth's surface is called a landform. Landforms are classified a number of different ways, but one of the most common methods is based on position and formation. Slope landforms are formed by tectonic plate shifts and movements. They form "hill like" conditions. Common slope landforms include hills, cliffs, plains, and valleys. Coastal and Oceanic landforms form near seas and oceans. Common forms include coasts, coves, deltas, lagoons, capes, and peninsulas. There are landforms that relate to flowing water called fluvial landforms. Common examples would be beaches, gullies, islands, marshes, oasis, rivers, streams, and swamps. Mountain and glacial landforms include fjords, glaciers, mountains ranges, and summits. There are also landforms that relate to volcanic activity they are fittingly called volcanic landforms. Examples include geysers, mesas, and calderas.

The landforms that are present today are not the same as they were millions of years ago. Over time plate shifts, erosion, and weathering has a great deal of influence on how a landform is shaped. Something some people miss is that rivers, ocean, and even lake are thought of as landforms. They are shaped by the land underneath them. Just under three-quarters of the Earth is ocean.

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Topography

A topographical map shows the physical features of the land. Topographical maps typically include the elevation of these areas.

Topography Questions

The information used to create these maps is gathered by either direct or indirect survey.

Types of Landforms

Buttes, canyons, valleys, and basins are all considered minor landforms.

QUESTIONS: Types of Landforms

How high does an area of elevated land need to be to be considered a mountain?

Mountains

A mountain is a landform that rises at least 1,000 feet above sea level. The highest mountain in the world is Mount Everest, which reaches 29,036 feet above sea level.

QUESTIONS: Mountains

What kind of mountain forms when two tectonic plates collide?

Hills

A hill is a landform with a higher elevation than everything around it. Like a mountain, a hill has a summit, which is its highest point.

QUESTIONS: Hills

What Native American tribe is known as the mound-builders?

Buttes

Buttes were originally part of flat areas of land at a very high elevation. These flat, elevated landforms are called mesas or plateaus.

QUESTIONS: Buttes

Buttes are most common in arid regions. An arid region is characterized by extremely low levels of precipitation.

Plains

A plain is a large, wide area of flat land. Over a third of the Earth's land area is made up of plains, and there are plains on every continent.

QUESTIONS: Plains

What kinds of plains are not covered in grasses?

Plateaus

A plateau or mesa is a flat, elevated landform. Plateaus form over long periods of time as geologic forces push the Earth's surface up and water, wind, and rain wear the sides of the formation down.

QUESTIONS: Plateaus

Sometimes plateaus form when magma from deep down inside the Earth rises to the surface but is unable to break through the crust in a volcanic eruption.

Canyons

The most well-known canyon in the U.S. is the Grand Canyon, which the Colorado River carved out of the Colorado Plateau.

QUESTIONS: Canyons

Explain how weathering and erosion shape canyons.

Valleys

Valleys are areas of land that have a lower elevation than the land surrounding them. Valleys form over time by a combination of gravity and erosion from water and ice.

QUESTIONS: Valleys

Ancient civilizations often settled in valleys because of the fertile soil and the easy access to water from the river.

Basins

Structural basins are basins that form as a result of earthquakes. Structural basins form when tectonic plates below the surface of the Earth shift.

QUESTIONS: Basins

Describe how structural basins form.