The World’s Longest Rivers

These freshwater bodies are always on the move, but some have further to go than others. Let’s discover the world's longest rivers.

Travel and Exploration
24 November 2022

There is no international definition for what qualifies as a river. There is nothing that delineates the cusp between, say, a stream and a river. In place of an official set of rules are a series of characteristics that all rivers embody. For example, a river is a natural flowing watercourse. It flows downhill from its point of origin or ‘source’ until it ends or reaches its ‘mouth’. Here, it empties into another body of water. perhaps an ocean or lake.

Aside from these agreed features, rivers are incredibly diverse. They vary in everything from width and depth to permanence and current strength. And, one of the most debated differences is length. For example, the world has 76 rivers measuring over 1,000 miles. In this article, we’ll explore the world’s longest rivers. However, before we do, a word of caution.

The measurement of rivers is a remarkably stormy subject. There are often disputes as to where rivers begin as well as end, not to mention the dizzying factor of their twists and turns. And nowhere is this debate livelier than when it comes to the longest river on Earth.

1. The Nile

Sunset over the Nile River near Luxor, Egypt. (Photo: rhkamen via Getty Images)

The River Nile or ‘Nahr Al-Nīl’ is one of the longest rivers in the world, stretching approximately 4,130 miles from its source in the Lake Victoria region to its mouth in the Mediterranean Sea. Along its journey, the Nile flows through a number of different countries, including Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, and Congo.

The Nile is also one of the most iconic rivers in the world, with a long and storied history. It was the lifeline of the Ancient Egyptian civilisation and played a significant role in the country’s culture and religion. The river was also the site of a number of famous battles, such as the Battle of the Nile in 1798.

Today, the River Nile is still an important part of life in Egypt and Sudan. It is used for transportation, irrigation, and even power generation.

2. Amazon

The Beautiful Amazon river and rainforest. (Photo: Silvestre Garcia - IntuitivoFilms via Getty Images)

Here’s where things start getting choppy. Many contend that it’s not the Nile but the Amazon River or ‘Río Amazonas’ that is the world’s longest river. The controversy stems from disagreements over the locations of both the source and mouth of the Amazon. In other words, where does it begin and end? Depending on the answers, the length of the Amazon has been cited as anything between 3,899 and 4,225 miles long, the latter of which would give it the edge. However, most put its length at about 4,086 miles.

Regardless, the Amazon River is certainly one of the two longest rivers in the world, and flows through Peru, Colombia, and Brazil before reaching the Atlantic Ocean. What’s more, it’s indisputably the biggest river in the world by discharge, with an average flow of over 7,600,000 cubic feet per second. That’s more than the seven next longest rivers combined.

The Amazon is home to a diverse array of plant and animal life, including many species that are found nowhere else in the world. The river is also an important source of livelihood for the millions of people who live in the Amazon basin.

3. Yangtze

The Yangtze river in Yunnan, China (Photo: Tuul & Bruno Morandi via Getty Images)

The Yangtze River is the longest river in China and the third longest river on Earth. It is around 3,964 miles long and flows through some of the most populous areas of the country, including the cities of Shanghai, Wuhan, and Nanjing.

The river is an important source of water for agriculture and industry, and it also provides a vital transportation link for trade and commerce.

4. Mississippi-Missouri River

Aerial view of Mississippi and Missouri Rivers (Photo: NNehring via Getty Images)

Again, this entry is not as straightforward as it might seem. It’s more a river system than a river, encompassing the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio Rivers. On this basis, it is some 3,710 miles in length.

5. Yenisei

Yenisei River in the Sayan mountains (Photo: Valerii Molodavkin via Getty Images)

The Yenisei River is the largest river in Russia and the fifth longest river in the world. It originates in the Sayan Mountains in southern Siberia and flows northwards through Russia to the Kara Sea. Along its journey, the Yenisei River passes through some of the most remote and beautiful parts of Russia.

The Longest Rivers on the Planet

Aerial view of a freighter navigating on Amazon River (Photo: Ricardo Lima via Getty Images)

We’ve gone the distance in search of the world’s longest rivers. We’ve learned that the measurement of the longest rivers in the world is not set in stone, with the debate as to which is the longest river in the world still ongoing. All in all however, we’ve discovered amazing facts about these ever-moving geological wonders.

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