You may have some idea about the major rivers in your country, and the ones located in close proximity to your locality. But since you are living in an era where rivers are not as indispensable as they used to be, you probably don’t know much about the prominent rivers across the globe. If that is the case, you should check out the following list of 10 longest rivers in the world.
Longest Rivers and River Systems in the World
1. Nile River
The entire world, except Brazil and probably a couple of other South American nations, agrees that the longest river on Earth is the Nile. Its length, according to both Encyclopedia Britannica and the US Geological Survey, is a whopping 4,132 miles. That’s about equivalent to the distance between Washington DC and Berlin.
The Nile’s drainage basin covers not just one or two, but as many as eleven different African countries, including Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Rising south of the Equator, the river nicknamed “the father of African rivers” flows northward through northeastern part of the continent before finally draining into the Mediterranean Sea.
2. Amazon River
The Amazon has a length of at least 4,000 miles, making it the second-longest river in the entire world. Since its ultimate source is a subject of debate, there are claims that the river flowing primarily through Peru and Brazil is actually longer than Nile. While those claims are yet to be accepted universally, there’s no doubt about the fact that it is the world’s largest river in terms of discharge volume as well as drainage area.
In fact, the Amazon’s average discharge is nearly equivalent to that of the next six largest rivers combined. Also, the portion of its drainage basin in Brazil alone is greater than the drainage basin of any other river in the world.
3. Yangtze River
With an estimated length of 3,915 miles, the Yangtze is the planet’s third-longest river. Unlike the Nile and the Amazon, this river doesn’t stretch across multiple countries – it flows entirely within China. Hence, if you exclude the international rivers, the Yangtze will top the list of the longest rivers in the world.
Originating from the eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau, it flows eastward into the East China Sea, after having served as the border of no less than 10 Chinese provinces and regions.
4. Mississippi-Missouri River System
The Mississippi-Missouri is a river system that consists of three North American rivers: the Mississippi, the Missouri, and the Jefferson. It claims the fourth spot among the world’s longest rivers. The river system, along with its tributaries, drains as many as 32 US states and two Canadian provinces, before flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.
The length of Mississippi-Missouri is approximately 3,710 miles when Brower’s Spring in Montana is considered to be the ultimate source. However, the Mississippi alone, with Lake Itasca considered its source, doesn’t have a length of more than 2,340 miles. From that perspective, the Missouri is a longer river, traversing a distance of 2,540 miles before entering the Mississippi.
5. Yenisei-Angara-Selenga River System
With a length of around 3,442 miles, the Yenisei-Angara-Selenga ranks fifth among the longest river systems in the world. Around 97 percent of its drainage basin lies in Russia, while just 3 percent is in Mongolia. It is also the greatest among all the river systems draining into the Arctic Ocean.
Rising in western Mongolia, the Selenga flows through Lake Baikal into the Angara, which merges with the Yenisei near Strelka, an urban locality in the Russian federal subject of Krasnoyarsk Krai. The Yenisei follows a northerly course, and emptying into the Kara Sea.
6. Yellow River
The Yellow River, also known as Huang He, is another incredibly-long river located entirely within the territory of China. Its name is a reference to the perennial ochre-yellow color of the muddy water in its lower course. The 3,395-mile-long river is often referred to as the cradle of Chinese civilization.
The source of the Yellow River lies in the Bayan Har Mountains of Western China’s Qinghai province. From there, it flows through eight other provinces, before draining into the Bohai Sea.
7. Ob-Irtysh River System
The Ob-Irtysh has a length of about 3,362 miles, making it the seventh-longest of all rivers and river systems. It is an international river system flowing through three countries: China, Kazakhstan, and Russia.
Originating from the glaciers on the southwestern slopes of the Altai Mountains in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, the Irtysh flows northwestward through the eastern part of Kazakhstan before meeting the Ob near the Russian city of Khanty-Mansiysk. The Ob traverses further north, eventually emptying into the Gulf of Ob.
8. Río de la Plata-Paraná River System
The Río de la Plata-Paraná is South America’s second-longest river system, flowing over a course of no less than 3,032 miles. The river system and its tributaries run through five countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay.
The Paraná originates at the confluence of two Brazilian rivers – the Rio Grande and the Paranaíba. As it flows southward, it merges first with the Iguazu River, and then with Paraguay River. Next, it merges with the Uruguay River, forming the Río de la Plata, and eventually empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
9. Congo-Lualaba-Chambeshi River System
The Congo-Lualaba-Chambeshi is the second-longest river system in Africa, as well as the continent’s largest network of navigable waterways. The distance between its source in the highlands of northeastern Zambia and its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean is north of 2,900 miles.
Apart from the Amazon, there’s no river or river system on the planet that has a greater discharge volume than the Congo-Lualaba-Chambeshi. It is also believed to be the deepest of all rivers, with measured depths exceeding 720 feet.
10. Amur-Argun-Kherlen River System
The Amur-Argun-Kherlen is an international river system flowing through three countries: Mongolia, China, and Russia. Its length is approximately 2,763 miles.
Originating from the Khentii Mountains in northeastern Mongolia, the Kherlen flows through Hulun Lake into the Argun in northern China. The Argun traverses northeastward and merges with the Shilka River to form the Amur, which eventually drains into the Sea of Okhotsk.
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