It is important to examine the lateral shift rate variation of river banks in different periods. One of the challenges in this regard is how to obtain the shift rate of river banks, as gauging stations are deficient for the study of river reaches. The present study selected the Yinchuan Plain reach of the Yellow River with a length of 196 km as a case study, and searched each point of intersection of 153 cross-sections (interval between two adjacent cross-sections was 1.3 km) and river banks in 1975, 1990, 2010 and 2011, which were plotted according to remote sensing images in those years. Then the shift rates for the points of intersection during 1975-1990, 1990-2010 and 2010-2011 were calculated, as well as the average shift rates for different sections and different periods. The results show that the left bank of the river reach shifts mostly to the right, with the average shift rates being 36.5 m/a, 27.8 m/a and 61.5 m/a in the three periods, respectively. Contemporarily, the right bank shifts mostly to the right in the first period, while it shifts to the left in the second and third periods, with the average shift rates being 31.7 m/a, 23.1 m/a and 50.8 m/a in the three periods, respectively. The average shift rates for the left and right banks during the period 1975-2011 are 22.3 m/a and 14.8 m/a, respectively. The bank shift rates for sections A, B and C are different. The shift rate ratio of the left bank in the three sections is 1:7.6:4.6 for shift to the left and 1:1.7:3.8 for shift to the right, while that of the right bank is 1:1.8:1.2 for shift to the left and 1:5.6:17.7 for shift to the right during the period 1975-2011. Obviously, the average shift rate is the least in section A, while it is maximum in section B for shift to the left and in section C for shift to the right. The temporal variation of the shift rate is influenced by human activities, while the spatial variation is controlled by the local difference in bank materials.