A classification of periglacial rivers is proposed. It is based on the generally valid laws relating the ratio of stream power to bed load with fluvial processes and morphology. However, river patterns may be modified by the special characteristics of the periglacial environment. Snowmelt, especially in areas of continuous permafrost, and river ice, especially in zones of duscontinuous permafrost, determine the respective hydrological regimes. The frozen state of the subsoil as well as the density of the vegetation cover contributes significantly to the bank cohesion and the sediment load of the rivers. These specific periglacial characteristics have a complex influence on the thresholds in river activity, resulting in a high diversity of periglacial river types. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.