Archive "River"

San Pedro River: A Linear Oasis

The San Pedro River marks the western edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. It is a small, struggling, vital, and enormously diverse river, thronged with ghosts. The last undammed river in a region where an estimated 90 percent of the precious riparian areas have been destroyed or degraded, the San Pedro nurtures great, leafy meanders of […]

Gila River: Plight of the Desert

Nothing so captures the human impact on the Sonoran Desert as the plight of the Gila River, once its most important river system. The river has all but vanished into reservoirs, irrigation ditches, and thickets of exotic salt cedar along most of its once epic length. The ghost river originates in the highlands of New […]

Old man River

Rivers, too, have their own hold on the human imagination. Most great cities that are not on the sea have a river running through them and would never have grown up without one. Nor is any painting of a wild landscape complete without flowing water. At all points in its course, a river is best […]

Zambezi River

Zambezi River

The Zambezi River is the fourth longest in Africa, after the NILE, CONGO, and NIGER rivers. It runs for 1,678 miles across the southern part of the continent, from ZAMBIA through ANGOLA, NAMIBIA, BOTSWANA, ZIMBABWE, and MOZAMBIQUE before emptying into the Indian Ocean. Along the river's course are many distinctive natural and human-made features. For 354 miles from its source […]

Nile River and Delta

Nile River and Delta

The Nile, the world's longest river, begins in the heart of Africa and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. Snaking north through eastern Africa for more than 4,000 miles, the river passes through nine countries on its way to the sea. The Nile basin, the area drained by the river's tributaries, covers 1.2 million square miles. For thousands of years, […]

Niger River and Delta

Niger River and Delta

The Niger River flows in a great arc through West Africa. The continent's third longest river, after the NILE RIVER and CONGO RIVER, it has carried travelers, traders, and explorers for hundreds of years. The Niger still serves as a highway for people and goods, but it also supplies water for agriculture and hydroelectric power. The delta at the […]

Congo River

Congo River

For centuries the Congo River has played a key role in trade, travel, and exploration in equatorial Africa. The Congo and its many tributaries form the largest system of navigable waterways in Africa. For local peoples, the river is a vital highway of commerce and communication. The Congo flows for 2,900 miles in a great curve through the […]

Yenisey-Angara River

Yenisey-Angara River

THE YENISEY AND ANGARA rivers form a dividing line between western and eastern SIBERIA. Like the other major rivers of the region, they flow from highlands in the south across the flat north Siberian plains to the ARCTIC OCEAN. The watershed also includes the subbasin of Lake BAIKAL, the second-largest body of fresh water in the world. Most of the Yenisey-Angara basin […]

Volga River

Volga River

THE VOLGA RIVER is considered to be the mother of Russian rivers. Europe's longest, it drains an area of 550,288 square mi (1,410,994 square km), roughly 40 percent of European RUSSIA. From its origins in the heavily forested hills near the Baltic Sea to its mouth on the CASPIAN SEA 2,300 mi (3,700 km) away, the river passes through much of […]

St. Lawrence River

St. Lawrence River

THE ST. LAWRENCE RIVER (in French, “fleuve Saint-Laurent”) was formed at the end of the last ice age. It is a 1,900-mi (3,058-km) west-to-east, middle latitude river connecting the five Great Lakes with the ATLANTIC OCEAN. The French called the river Riviere du Canada until the early 1600s, but fleuve connotes a river that runs to the sea, a more appropriate […]



A RIVER IS A LARGE STREAM OF WATER flowing in a bed or channel and emptying into the ocean, a sea, a lake, or another stream. Rivers have a starting point called a source, and a mouth, where they empty into a larger body of water. Its source may be a spring, lake, or mountain snowmelt, and its ultimate destination […]

Rio Grande

Rio Grande

THE RIO GRANDE was once known as “Rio del Norte,” and the first to describe it to Europeans was Captain General Juan de Onate, whose party of exploration first visited the river on April 20, 1598. The river was then called Corre del Norte, meaning that its current ran from the north. It is the second-largest river in North America, running […]

Rhône River

Rhone River

THE RHONE IS THE chief river of southeastern FRANCE, draining much of the western ALPS and connecting the regions of the interior to the MEDITERRANEAN coast. From its rise in the Swiss Alps to its wide DELTA, the Camargue, the river travels 500 mi (800 km), at first through narrow and twisting mountain valleys, but from Lyon to the sea (170 […]

Rhine River

Rhine River

WITH A TOTAL LENGTH of 820 mi (1,320 km) flowing through SWITZERLAND, GERMANY, and the NETHERLANDS, the Rhine is the longest river in Germany and probably the most important waterway of western Europe. The Vorderhein, Hinterrhein, and Alpenrhein are the sources of the river within Switzerland. The Rhine then enters the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and reemerges as the Hochrhein up to Basel […]


COVERING AN AREA roughly the size of CONNECTICUT, Okavango is the largest inland DELTA in the world. It is located in north-central BOTSWANA in the middle of the KALAHARI DESERT and is formed by the Cubango and Cuito rivers flowing out of mountains in ANGOLA and into the Okavango River. Okavango covers a swampy depression […]

Ob-Irtysh River

THE OB AND THE IRTYSH rivers together form one of the largest river BASINs in the world, but also drain an area among the least populated and least known to outsiders. The rivers flow from the isolated mountain ranges of Central Asia (the ALTAI and Sayan ranges) across the sparsely populated Western Siberian Lowland to […]

Nile River

AT 4,132 mi (6,650 km) long, the Nile River is the longest river in the world. It flows from two principal sources in equatorial Africa that join at KHARTOUM, SUDAN, and continues north through Sudan and EGYPT, emptying into the MEDITERRANEAN SEA. Historically, the Nile has been used in irrigation, farming, and transportation for thousands […]

Niger River

LOCATED IN West Africa, the Niger River stretches 2,610 mi (4,200 km) in length, making it the thirdlongest river in Africa, after the NILE and the CONGO. It is ranked 14th among the longest rivers in the world. The drainage basin of the river encompasses 807,000 square mi (2,090,000 square km). The Niger River runs […]

Mississippi River

MARK TWAIN begins the novel Life on the Mississippi by writing “The Mississippi is well worth reading about. It is not a commonplace river, but on the contrary is in all ways remarkable.” No better words can be used to summarize of one of the world's largest, and North America's greatest, river. The Mississippi River […]

Mekong River

THE MEKONG IS the 12th-longest river in the world, traveling nearly 2,600 mi (4,200 km) from its source in the Tibetan plateau to its enormous DELTA in southern VIETNAM. It is the major transportation highway and supplier of life for most of Southeast Asia—with five cities over 100,000 and one-third of the populations of THAILAND, […]

Mackenzie-Peace River

THE MACKENZIE-PEACE River system is made up of the Mackenzie and Peace rivers. Located in western CANADA, this is the 10th-longest river system in the world, at 2,635 mi (4,240 km). Sir Alexander Mackenzie, a Canadian explorer, discovered the river in 1789 and it was named for him. By itself, the Mackenzie River is the […]

Loire River

TO MANY PEOPLE, the Loire River defines FRANCE. It is the country's largest river and draws together its different regions, east and west, north and south. The Renaissance chateaus along its lower course are the second-largest tourist draw after Paris, and the river provides water and transportation for the nation's agricultural center. From its origins […]

Lena River

THE LENA RIVER is one of Russia's great northern rivers, draining an area of 899,641 square mi (2,306,772 square km) and encompassing a region rich in wildlife and natural resources, including one of the world's largest deposits of gold. This is also one of the most inhospitable regions on the planet, with extremes of temperature […]

Irrawaddy River

THE IRRAWADDY is the chief river of MYANMAR, or Burma. It is formed from the confluence of the Mali and N'mai rivers far in the northern highlands on the borders with CHINA, and flows 1,350 mi (2,177 km) before entering the Andaman Sea (a section of the BAY OF BENGAL). The river's extensive DELTA begins […]

Indus River

THE INDUS RIVER in PAKISTAN flows 1,900 mi (3,000 km) from southwestern TIBET to the Arabian Sea. From the dawn of human culture, the Indus River has sustained societies along its banks; the earliest civilization that can be reliably distinguished is called the Indus Valley civilization (or Harappan). This sophisticated society is dated back to […]

Hudson River

“THE RIVER THAT Flows Both Ways” is located between Lake Tear of the Clouds and the southern tip of Manhattan in NEW YORK. It flows 315 mi (507 km) and empties into the ATLANTIC OCEAN. Its low and high tides, along with its salty water, account for the river's bidirectional water flow. The Lower Hudson […]

Huang (Yellow) River

THE YELLOW RIVER, called the Huang He by the Chinese, is the second longest river in CHINA reaching 5,500 km (3,000 mi), second only to the CHANGJIANG (Yangzi River). The regions to the north and south of the Huang River are called, respectively, the Hebei (north) and Henan (south). The chief tributaries of the Huang […]

Ganges River

ORIGINATING IN TIBET and flowing 1,557 mi (2,507 km) from northwest to southeast through INDIA, the Ganges River empties into the BAY OF BENGAL. Known as the Ganga in India, it is the most important river in South Asia, sustaining the lives of literally hundreds of millions of people daily. Along with its sister river […]

exotic rivers

THERE IS A WRITTEN record on the land in the Near East. Here, civilization arose out of the mysteries of the stone age and gave rise to cultures that moved eastward to CHINA and westward through Europe and across the ATLANTIC OCEAN to the Americas. Achievements of ancient origin serve as constant reminders of our […]

Don River

THE DON RIVER IS one of RUSSIA's major commercial rivers, which, connected to the VOLGA through the 65-mi (105-km) Volga-Don Canal, allows river traffic to sail from Russia's interior ports as far inland as MOSCOW to ports on the BLACK SEA and beyond to the MEDITERRANEAN. The Don River basin also includes its most important […]

Danube River

THE DANUBE RIVER IS the longest river in western Europe, surpassed in Europe as a whole only by the VOLGA in RUSSIA. Fourteen countries are drained by its watershed, covering over 312,000 square mi (800,000 square km): GERMANY, AUSTRIA (and small parts of eastern SWITZERLAND), the CZECH REPUBLIC, SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY (and a small corner of […]

Congo River

FROM ITS SOURCE on a savanna PLATEAU just south of Lake TANGANIKA, the Congo River flows some 2,880 mi (4,630 km) through equatorial africa before eventually emptying into the ATLANTIC OCEAN. While no other major river in the world transects the equator even once, the Congo River twice crosses the equator in its journey to […]

civilizations, early river

Early river valley civilizations arose in Mesopotamia, EGYPT, the INDUS RIVER Valley, and CHINA. Earlier agricultural societies (8,000 to 13,000 years ago) were largely subsistence cultures. The river civilizations had food enough to provide for classes of people other than just farmers. These societies all used agricultural surpluses to establish civilizations with cities and trade and […]

Changjiang (Yangzi River)

THE CHANGJIANG cuts through the heart of CHINA and is regarded by the Chinese as the geographical marker dividing the country into north and south. It winds its way through the 10 provinces of Qinghai, Tibet, Yunnan, Sichuan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu and Shanghai before reaching the East China Sea. Its fertile ALLUVIAL PLAINs produce great amounts of […]

Amur River

THE AMUR RIVER, in Siberia, springs from the confluence of the Shilka and Argun Rivers east of Lake BAIKAL and flows over 1,800 mi (2,897 km) toward the Tatar Straits, the passage between Sakhalin and the Russian Pacific Coast. With all tributaries, the Amur basin covers nearly 750,000 square mi (1,942,491 square km) of area. […]

Amu Darya

THE AMU DARYA has served as a bridge between cultures for several millennia. A river that flows straight across one of the harshest deserts in the world, it has served as a natural highway for migrants and invaders from Central Asia to South Asia and the MIDDLE EAST, as well as a boundary for the empires […]

Amazon River

SOME AUTHORITIES believe that the river in BRAZIL and neighboring countries was named after the Amazons, women warriors of Greek mythology, who were thought to reside in the region; other scholars insist that the name is derived from the local native word amassona, meaning “boat destroyer.” Despite centuries of effort to overcome the dominance of nature, […]