A tributary (or affluent or confluent) is a contributory stream, a river that does not reach the sea, but joins another major river (a parent river), to which it contributes its waters, swelling its discharge. A tributary joins another river at a confluence. When a river's tributaries are listed in orographic sequence, they are in order from the highest (nearest the source of the river) to the lowest (nearest the mouth).
The opposite of a tributary is a distributary; a river branch that flows away from the main stream.
A river and all its tributaries drain the watershed of the river.
Network analysis examines the arrangement of tributaries in a hierarchy of 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. orders.
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