In this study, geomorphological, sedimentological, and geochronological work was conducted on unconfined and confined reaches of three rivers in the eastern interior of South Africa in order to quantify the relative rates of floodplain reworking and alluvial preservation along river courses with variable valley confinement and lithology. Using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating techniques, new chronologies for the Schoonspruit and Mooi River were created and the existing Klip River chronology was expanded. The results suggest that floodplains in both unconfined and confined reaches preserve complex spatial and temporal patterns of alluviation, although differences in boundary conditions lead to variation in the processes and rates of floodplain construction and reworking. On the Klip and Mooi Rivers where local base levels are stable, channels in unconfined reaches rework floodplain sediments through slow lateral migration punctuated by local erosion during avulsion events. On the Schoonspruit where base level has lowered, the channel in the unconfined reach is incised, the floodplain is abandoned, and a large gully has formed. In the confined reaches of all three rivers, the narrow floodplains are reworked by scour and fill activity and limited lateral migration. The OSL results suggest that unconfined reaches preserve relatively continuous alluvial records that extend into the Pleistocene, while the floodplains in the confined reaches preserve relatively discontinuous alluvial records biased toward the late Holocene. The alluvial geochronologic records in these systems preserve signals of changes in local base level controlled by variation in lithology and incision rather than climate change. By defining the processes, rates, and patterns of floodplain reworking in reaches with different degrees of valley confinement and channel incision, the findings contribute to understanding how rivers build, modify, and preserve alluvial sedimentary archives. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.