Alternate bars in straight alluvial channels are migrating or nonmigrating. The currently accepted view is that they are nonmigrating if the width-to-depth ratio is at the value of resonance or if the bars are forced by a persistent local perturbation. We carried out 2-D numerical computations and a long-duration mobile-bed flume experiment to investigate this view. We find that nonmigrating bars can also occur in straight channels without resonant width-to-depth ratio or steady local perturbation. They appear to be an intrinsic response of the alluvial river bed. This finding bears on explanations for meandering of alluvial rivers, for which nonmigrating bars are seen as a prerequisite. We find, however, that the intrinsic tendency of a straight channel to form meanders usually has a different origin. The identified intrinsic nonmigrating bars can only become the dominant mechanism for incipient meandering if the erodibility of the banks is very low.