Anabranching rivers are a widespread feature of the Northern Plains in the Alice Springs region of central Australia but their unusual characteristics previously have not been described. On the Northern Plains, anabranching occurs on rivers transporting bedloads of coarse sand and gravel and is characterised by channels of variable size and shape which occur within a broader, typically well-defined, channel-train. Channels are separated by channel-train ridges-narrow, flow-aligned, vegetated features-or by wider islands. Ridges and islands are either depositional features (formed in situ by accretionary processes) or erosional features (formed by excision from once-continuous areas of floodplain). Vegetation plays a key role in the initiation, survival and growth of depositional forms through its influence on flow, sediment transport and ridge and island stability. Anabranching is also related to the influence of tributaries, for some large rivers alternate from single-thread to anabranching along their length in response to tributary inputs of water and sediment. Tributary inputs occur during flow events that are either independent from, or in concert with, floods in the trunk channel. Ridges and islands form in association with tributaries as a result of various hydrological, depositional and erosional processes, including irrigation of enhanced numbers of in-channel trees and resulting lee-side sediment accretion, floodplain scour, and the formation and maintenance of deferred-junction tributaries. The change from single-thread to anabranching downstream of tributary junctions occurs in the absence of any significant change in channel gradient or degree of channel confinement. On the Northern Plains, anabranching appears to be a stable river pattern that helps to maintain the throughput of relatively coarse sediment in low-gradient (typically 0.0005-0.002) channels characterised by an abundance of within-channel vegetation and subject to declining downstream discharges.