1 - Nile
Length: 6,650 km
Location: North Africa
The north-flowing Nile, fed by two tributaries-the White Nile that begin in Rwanda and the Blue Nile that begins in Ethiopia, runs through the deserts of Sudan and Egypt before emptying in a delta in the Mediterranean. This river has provided the fertile soil that has supported civilizations along its banks for millennia. Currently, major cities along the Nile include Aswan, Khartoum, Luxor, Giza and Cairo. The majority of Egypt’s inhabitants live in the Delta region.
2 - Amazon
Length: 6,400 km
Location: South America
The Amazon River, which has its source in the Andes of Peru and its mouth in Brazil, is by far the largest river in the world by volume. Sometimes referred to as the Ocean River, the vast Amazon spans more than 190 km in certain regions during the rainy season, when the Amazon Basin releases 300,000 cubic meters of water into the ocean each second. This massive output of water makes up 20% of the freshwater that flows into ocean. Known for its diversity of wildlife, the Amazon rain forest is home to more than a third of the world’s species, including 2,500 tree species and nearly 30,000 plant species, while the river supports notable animals like the Amazonian manatee, the Amazon River Dolphin, the bull shark, the anaconda and the piranha. Sadly, large-scale development and deforestation is contributing to a loss of diversity and depletion of resources.
3 - Yangtze River (Chang Jiang)
Length: 6,300 km
The Chang Jiang, meaning “Long River” originates in the Geladandong Mountain in the Qinghai province and flows east in the East China Sea. With its course through major cities (including Chongqing, Wuhan, Anqing, Nanjing, Zhenjiang and Shanghai), the river is of great economic importance as a shipping route and allows for the transportation of cargo and people between the interior and the coast. Since its completion in 2008, the Three Gorges Dam in the Hubei province serves as the world’s largest hydro-electric power station, though the population displacement and flooding has been the source of great controversy.
4 - Mississippi-Missouri
Length: 6,275 km
Draining 31 U.S. states from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachian Mountains and flowing from Minnesota to New Orleans, where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi and its tributary the Missouri, form the fourth longest river system in the world. The name Mississippi is derived from the Ojibwe name “Misiziibi” or “Great River”, as the first settlers of the Mississippi valley were Native American tribes like the Sioux, Ojibwe, Cheyenne and Chickasaw. Europeans reached the Mississippi by 1541, with the arrival of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto and by the 17th
centuries, the French gained ownership of much of the area. After the French and Indian War, the Treaty of Paris divided its American territories between the British and the Spanish. A secret reacquisition by the French and the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 caused the land to change hands again and ultimately gave the U.S. control of the river. At its widest point by Grand Rapids Minnesota, the Mississippi spans 11 km across. This relatively slow moving river, with an average surface speed of about 1.2 miles per hour, is regulated by 43 dams that generate power and moderate flow.
5 - Yenisei
Length: 5,539 km
The Yenisei, which flows into the Arctic Ocean from Mongolia and across Siberia, is icebound for more than half the year. This often poses the threat of flooding when the ice collects and creates blockages. Explosives and icebreakers must be used to keep the waterways open and the river flowing. In ancient times, nomadic tribes used to live beside the Yenisei. Russians began exploring the sparsely populated upper Yenisei in 1605 and the mouth around 1610. The middle section of the Yenisei powers hydroelectric dams.