Animation of the formation of an oxbow lake
A meander cutoff occurs when a meander bend in a river is breached by a chute channel that connects the two closest parts of the bend. This causes the flow to abandon the meander and to continue straight downslope. Cutoffs are a natural part of the evolution of a meandering river, and have also been used to artificially shorten the length of meandering rivers for navigation.
In March, 1876, a cutoff formed suddenly across the neck of a meander in the Mississippi River near Reverie, Tennessee, shortening the river's course and leaving the town connected to Arkansas but across the new river channel from the rest of Tennessee.