Rivers have a critical role to play in draining surface water and carrying nutrients and water to where they’re needed.
Let’s have a look at the 10 largest rivers in the world.
Largest Rivers by Volume
1. The Amazon River
The Amazon River in South America passes through Brazil, Peru, and Columbia. At 3,997 miles long, it is not the longest river in the world, but it discharges an average of 7,831,000 cubic feet of water every second – more than the next seven largest rivers together. Water from the Amazon river makes up 20% of the world’s river flow. Where it enters the Atlantic Ocean, its freshwater dilutes the salinity of the ocean and changes its color for an area of 1 million square miles. The river surrounds the entire Amazon Rain Forest, and more than 3,000 types of fish live in it. It is also home to dolphins, manatees, turtles, eels, otters, crabs, and the famous anaconda.
2. The Congo River
The Congo River in Africa, previously known as the Zaire River, is 2,716 miles long and discharges 1,454,964 cubic feet of water per second. It is the deepest river in the world, with its deepest point measuring 720 feet. And, by volume, it is the second-largest river, with the potential to supply hydropower to all of Sub-Saharan Africa. For the most part, the river forms the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo. In addition to these, it flows through Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Gabon, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia, before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.
3. The Yangtze River
The Yangtze River in China discharges 1,059,440 cubic feet of water per second, and about 400 million people live in its basin (about a third of China’s total population.) A section of the river flowing through western Yunnan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making up one of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan. Tiger Leaping Gorge, the deepest gorge in the world, can be found in this section. Evidence of human activity on the Yangtze dates back 27,000 years, and it was a critical means of transportation for China. Even today, many of China’s most important cities are on the banks of the Yangtze, including Shanghai, Wuxi, Yangzhou, Zhenjiang, Nanjing, Wuhan, Yichang, and Chongqing.
4. The Mississippi River
The Mississippi River in North America is 2,320 miles long and discharges between 200,000 and 700,000 cubic feet per second, making it 4th largest rivers in the world. It has two main tributaries, the Missouri River in the West and the Ohio River in the East. The river system originates in Canada and flows through the U.S., ending in the Gulf of Mexico. It supplies an estimated 18 million people with water and evidence of plant domestication in its basin date back to the 4th millennium BCE. It is home to 60 fish species, 325 bird species, 50 mammal species, and 145 amphibian species.
5. The Yenisei River
The Yenisei River is one of three major rivers in Siberia and the fifth-longest river in the world at 3,445 miles. It originates in Mongolia and flows through Russia, Tuva, the Krasnoyarsk Territory, Khakassia, the Irkutsk region, Buryatia, and the Transbaikalia territory until it empties into the Arctic Ocean via the Kara Sea north of Siberia. On average, the Yenisei discharges 723,750 cubic feet of water per second. Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world (by volume), is located in the Yenisei watershed. The river is ice-free between May and October.
6. The Paraná River
The Paraná River in South America starts in Brazil. It runs through Paraguay and Argentina, where it joins the Uruguay River to drain into the Río de la Plata and ultimately into the Atlantic Ocean. The Paraná is 3,050 miles long and discharges 610, 590 cubic feet of water per second, making it 6th largest rivers in the world by volume. In 1979, one of the biggest hydroelectric power plants in the world was built on the Paraná, the Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam. In the process, the Guairá Falls were completely submerged.
7. The Ob River
The Ob (or Obi) River is the second of three great rivers in Siberia, which empty into the Arctic Ocean (along with the Yenisei and Lena.) It is 3,395 miles long and is one of the swiftest rivers, discharging 440,550 cubic feet of water per second. The main course of the Ob runs in Russia, but tributaries extend to China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia.
8. The Amur River
The Amur River in Asia is 2,714 miles long and discharges 402,587 cubic feet of water per second. It sits on the border of Russia and China and is formed by the Shilka River from Russia and the Argun River originating in Manchuria. It terminates in the Tatar Straits. Despite its length, there are relatively few urban settlements along the river, although it is the most significant shipping artery in Far East Russia.
9. The Yellow River
The Yellow River is the second largest river in China at 3,395 miles long. It discharges 63,566 cubic feet of water per second, and the name comes from the yellow color of the sediment carried along with it. The origin is high up in the Bayankala Mountains in Qinghai province in the west, and it terminates in the Bohai Sea. The Yellow River basin consists of almost 300,000 square miles of arable land and was the birthplace of ancient Chinese civilization. Today it is home to approximately 100 million people.
10. The Nile River
The Nile River in North Africa is the longest in the world at 4,132 miles long. It flows through eleven countries, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, and South Sudan. It discharges an average of 99,941 cubic feet of water every second, making the Nile the 10th largest river in the world by volumne. The Nile has two tributaries, the White Nile, which starts in Rwanda, and the Blue Nile, which has its origin in Ethiopia. Both branches meet the Nile in Sudan and continue onto Egypt, where the river empties into the Mediterranean. Much of the area the Nile flows though is dessert. Egypt, in particular, is heavily dependent on the Nile for water, and half its population, about 40 million people, live on the Nile delta.
Rivers provide habitat and food for plants, animals, and humans. They’re an essential source of energy, transport, and recreation. And now you know the ten largest rivers in the world!
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