Rivers and Streams: Animals

Contributor: Samantha Penna. Lesson ID: 11458

Have you ever learned how to swim? How did you learn? If you lived in the water, you'd have to learn pretty quickly! Watch a baby otter learn, then do some online (and some wet!) research on your own!


Life Science, World

learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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What if your house were constantly moving? Do you think it is challenging for animals to live in waters that are constantly moving? Why or why not?

Before exploring the animals found in rivers and streams, make sure you have completed the previous two Related Lessons found in the right-hand sidebar.

Have you ever tried to swim in a river or stream?

Could you feel the movement of the water? Was the current pulling you down the river? Share your story with your parent or teacher.

There are many sports that take place on rivers. One common example is whitewater rafting. Whitewater rafting is simply people getting into durable, inflatable tubes and floating all the way down a river. A river has currents that are strong enough to pull tubes of people down its waters. How do you think animals are able to survive in water with a strong current? Discuss your answer with your parent or teacher.

river rapids

Rivers and streams make great homes for many different types of animals. The most commonly-found river animals include frogs, salamanders, crayfish, salmon, river otters, catfish, muskrats, and beavers. Don't forget, animals vary depending on the location of the river. These are the most prominent river and stream animals.

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A common river animal spotted in various parts of America is the North American river otter. These little critters find their homes on land but spend most of their time enjoying the cool waters of rivers and streams. Their multi-tunnel burrows can be found close to the river banks. They dig multiple tunnels that lead to many different places. Otters always have a tunnel that leads right to the water.

Their strong tails, webbed feet, long bodies, and waterproof fur help them swim in the water. Did you know that the otters' waterproof fur helps them stay warm and dry, even while swimming? It is almost like they are wearing a wetsuit! Check out Molalla the Baby River Otter Learns to Swim by Oregon Zoo (below) to see this adorable baby otter learn to swim:

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Did you know river otters need swimming and diving lessons?

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Now, let's learn about another river critter — the muskrat!

Muskrats are another common river animal found in North America. These little creatures are named after their rat-like appearance and musky smell. Muskrats live in multi-tunnel burrows that are found near rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. Did you know muskrat tunnels go underwater? They dig tunnels that go under the water then lead back up to the surface. This helps keep the tunnel dry.

Muskrats have waterproof fur that allows them to stay warm and dry. Can you think of another animal that has waterproof fur? Tell your parent or teacher.

That's right! River otters also have waterproof fur. Check out the muskrats below:

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Now let's take a look at beavers.

North American beavers can be found in North America, South America, and Europe. Beavers live in dams. They create dams out of twigs, sticks, mud, and rocks. These dams are so strong they can divert the flow of water. Sometimes beaver dams can greatly decrease the flow of water from one place to another. Look at the beaver dam below. How is it affecting the flow of the river? Share your answer with your parent or teacher.

Beavers have webbed feet, waterproof fur, and a flat tail. All these physical characteristics make them great swimmers! If you ever hear a loud slap on the water, that's the beaver using its tail to warn predators to leave its territory!

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There are many other animals that make their homes next to the rivers around the world. In the next section, you will conduct some research. You will get to explore the incredible river and stream animals that can be found all over Earth.

Before moving on to the Got It? section, tell your parent or teacher three examples of animals that have waterproof fur.

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