Rivers are among the most fascinating creations in the universe. This is thanks to an endless supply of amazing topography and life they create and support. From cascading waterfalls and spectacular canyons to breathtaking sceneries, the delights of rivers are truly amazing. The largest rivers in the world represent a collection of the wonders that nature provides across the globe.
However, the most surprising thing about rivers is their sheer variety. There are seasonal rivers, underground rivers, surface rivers and even extraterrestrial rivers! That’s right: extraterrestrial. Rivers have been discovered on Titan – the largest moon of the planet Saturn.
For now, though, we’ll focus on the rivers on our own planet. A common question which people ask is “what are the largest rivers in the world?” Well, to answer the question, we’ve compiled the top 15. These are the largest rivers in terms of length, area covered and water volume. So, let’s begin our countdown:
Top 15 Largest Rivers in the World
So, let’s begin our countdown:
15. Murray River
Located in Australia, the Murray River is the longest river in the country. Measuring 1,476 miles in length, it is also the 15th-longest river in the world. The Murray River starts off in the Australian Alps. It then snakes through southern Australia, before pouring into the Southern Sea. Along its journey, the Murray is fed by two main rivers – the Murrumbidgee and Darling Rivers. Sometimes referred to as “Australia’s Great River”, the Murray has a basin which covers an area of 1.061 million square kilometers.
14. Niger RiverLocated in West Africa, the Niger is the third-longest river in Africa. Thanks to its 2,609 miles, it is also the 14th-longest in the world. This river actually starts in the Guinea Highlands in the country of Guinea. It then snakes through half-a-dozen other countries including Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Cameron, and Niger. The river then discharges into a massive delta known as the Niger Delta (or Oil Rivers – thanks to the area’s abundance of petroleum); before pouring into the Atlantic Ocean at the Gulf of Guinea. The River Niger basin covers a total area of 2.09 million square kilometers.
13. Mackenzie River SystemLocated in Northwestern Canada, the Mackenzie is the largest river system in Canada. Arising in the Great Slave Lake, the Mackenzie flows for 4,240 miles through the Northern Territories before draining into the Arctic Ocean.
The Mackenzie River System is actually the second-largest in North America (after the Mississippi-Missouri). Its basin covers a total area of 1.8 square kilometers. The river system contains three Canadian lakes (Great Slave, Athabasca, Great Bear), and over half-a-dozen other rivers (including Slave, Athabasca, Peace, Nahanni, and others).
12. Mekong RiverStretching through Southeast Asia, the Mekong River is the 12th longest in the world. Originating in China, this river snakes through Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. On its journey, it covers a total of 2,703 miles, making it Asia’s 7th longest river. The Mekong River drains a total area of 795,000 square kilometers. It also discharges an annual volume of 114 cubic miles of water per annum.
11. Lena River
Located in Siberia (Russia), the Lena is one of the three great Siberian Rivers. These rivers (which include Ob and Yenisei) drain into the Arctic Ocean. The Lena is actually the easternmost of these three rivers.
Stretching for 2,734 miles, the Lena is the 11th longest river in the world. It also has the 9th largest watershed in the world. The total area covered by the River Lena basin is 2.4 million square kilometers, making it one of the largest rivers in the world by area.
10. Amur RiverStretching for 2,763 miles, the Amur is the 10th longest river in the world. This river actually forms the border between Russia and China. It originates in Western Manchuria, at the confluence of the Ergune and Shikas Rivers. The Amur actually starts off at a 994 feet elevation, one of the highest starting points for any river on earth. It snakes eastwards towards Russia into and pours into the Sea of Okhotsk. The Amur River basin covers a total area of 1.85 million square kilometers. The river has numerous tributaries including Shika, Zeya, Ergune, and Huma.
9. Congo RiverFormally known as River Zaire, this is river has the distinction of being the deepest in the world. It has been measured to depths of up to 220 m (720 feet). To put this in perspective, the great Amazon River measures 100m (300 feet) at its deepest point. Measuring a total of 2,920 miles, the Congo is the second-longest river in Africa.
In terms of water volume, the Congo is the second largest river in the world. Its drainage basin covers over 4 million square kilometers. Thanks to its tributaries, this river feeds the Congo rainforest – which is considered the second largest rainforest in the world, after the mighty Amazon.
8. Parana RiverOriginating in southern Brazil, the Parana is the second-largest river in South America. Covering a total area of 3,030 miles, only the Amazon River is longer. The Parana starts at the confluence of Paranaiba and Grande rivers in southern Brazil. It flows through Paraguay and Argentina, before draining into the Atlantic Ocean at Rio de la Plata.
In terms of sheer size, the Parana is one of the largest rivers in the world. It river basin covers a total area of 2.5 million square kilometers. It discharges an amazing 17,290 cubic meters of water per second. This large volume of water has earned River Parana the nickname “Mother of the Sea”.
7. Ob RiverAlso known as Obi, the Ob is one of the three great Siberian Rivers which flow into the Arctic Ocean (the others being the Lena and Yenisei Rivers). This river originates in western Siberia, at the confluence of River Biya and River Katun. It flows a total of 3,395 miles, before pouring into the Arctic Ocean. This is one of the fastest rivers in the world, with an average water discharge of 12,475 cubic meters per second. It is also one of the largest, with its basin covering a total of 2.99 million square kilometers.
6. Yellow RiverLocally known as Huang He in China, this river is often referred to as “the Cradle of Civilization.” This is because the earliest known civilizations cropped up around its drainage basin in Northern China. It gets its name “Yellow River” from the wind-blown silt and sediment it picks up in its flow – which gives it a yellowy appearance. Locals inhabiting its banks often refer to it as “the muddy flow.”
The Yellow river is the second-longest river in China and third-longest in Asia. It total length is estimated at 3,395 miles. The river originates from the Western Chinese Mountains of Bayan Har, flows through 9 provinces and empties into the Bohai Sea in Northern China. Its basin covers a total area of 742, 442 square kilometers.
5. Yenisei River
Also spelled “Yenisey”, this is the largest river which feeds the Arctic Ocean. Measuring a total of 3,445 miles, the Yenisei is one of the three great rivers of Siberia. The Yenisei River actually originates in Mongolia. However, only 2.9% of it the river is actually found in Mongolia. The largest section flows through Siberia and empties into the Kara Sea. This section actually has two tributaries – the Angara and Selenga Rivers. The water basin of the Yenisei covers a total of 2.5 million square kilometers.
4. Mississippi – Missouri River System
Spanning 2,340 miles, this is the largest river system in North America. This river system originates in Canada, flows southwards through the US and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. In terms of water volume, this river is the ranks number 10 in the world. This river flows through 8 US states i.e. Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. However, this river system has dozens of tributaries which stretch into 31 US states as well as 2 Canadian provinces.
3. Yangtze RiverMeasuring a total 3,915 miles, the Yangtze is the longest river in Asia. Locally, it is sometimes called the Yangzi or Chan Jiang. This river is actually one of the largest in the world by discharge volume. It also flows through some of the widest variety of physical features – including mountains, valleys, deserts, rain forests and even an Ice mass.
The Yangtze River originates in the Tibet Plateau and flows through southwest, central and eastern china, before emptying into the East China Sea. This river is one of the most important in the history and economy of china. Almost one-third of China’s total population inhabits the Yangtze’s basin which covers an area of 1.8 million square kilometers.
2. Amazon River
Measuring 3,976 miles, the Amazon is the second-largest river in the world. However, it is by far the most powerful. It accounts for one-fifth of the total river water flow in the world. At its mouth, the Amazon discharges a whopping 8 million gallons of water per day. During the wet season, it can swell up to 30 miles in width at some points.
The Amazon River originates in the Nevado Mismi region of the Andes Mountains in Peru. It flows through 6 countries including Ecuador, Guyana, Bolivia, Venezuela, Columbia and Brazil, before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. In terms of water volume, the Amazon is considered the largest river in the world.
1. Nile River
Measuring a whopping 4,132 miles, this is without a doubt the longest river in the world. Its water basin covers a total of 3.4 million square kilometers across 9 African countries. This river drains almost 10% of the African continent, before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.
The Nile actually has two tributaries. The first originates in Rwanda, and flows through Burundi, DR Congo, Uganda and South Sudan. This is called the White Nile. The second originates into Ethiopia and flows through Eritrea into the Sudan. This is called the Blue Nile. The White and Blue Nile meet up in Sudan, join and flow together through Egypt and into the Mediterranean Sea.
This list of the largest rivers in the world was created to help understand the expansive size and diversity of our planet. Which of the rivers are your favorite? Are there any large rivers that you would like included in this list? Tell us about it in the comments below.