Alluvial river self-adjustment describes the mechanism whereby a river that was originally in an equilibrium state of sediment transport encounters some disturbance that destroys the balance and results in responses such as riverbed deformation. A systematic study of historical and recent aerial photographs and topographic maps in the Middle and Lower Reaches of the Yangtze River (MLYR) shows that river self-adjustment has the distinguishing feature of transferring from upstream to downstream, which may affect flood safety, waterway morphology, bank stability, and aquatic environmental safety over relatively long reaches downstream. As a result, it is necessary to take measures to control or block this transfer. Using the relationship of the occurrence time of channel adjustments between the upstream and downstream, 34 single-thread river reaches in the MLYR were classified into four types: corresponding, basically corresponding, basically not corresponding, not corresponding. The latter two types, because of their ability to prevent upstream channel adjustment from transferring downstream, are called barrier river reaches in this study. Statistics indicate that barrier river reaches are generally single thread and slightly curved, with a narrow and deep cross-sectional morphology, and without flow deflecting nodes in the upper and middle parts of reaches. Moreover, in the MLYR, barrier river reaches have a hydrogeometric coefficient of <4, a gradient >1.2‰, a silty clay content of the concave bank >9.5%, and a median diameter of the bed sediment >0.158 mm. The barrier river reach mechanism lies in that can effectively centralise the planimetric position of the main stream from different upstream directions, meaning that no matter how the upper channel adjusts, the main stream shows little change, providing relatively stable inflow conditions for the lower reaches. Regarding river regulation, it is necessary to optimise the benefits of barrier river reaches; long river reaches without barrier properties should be systematically planned and regulated; drastic bank collapse and sandbar shrinking should be urgently controlled to prevent the loss of barrier effects.