Top 10 Longest Rivers in the World

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For a long time, there has been a controversy on whether the Nile is longer than the Amazon. The confusion arises from disagreements among researchers on what factors should be considered when determining the source of a river. 

However, the opponents of the fact that the Nile River is longer than the Amazon have never succeeded in dislodging it as the longest in the world.

Why Determining the Length of a River is Tricky for Researchers

Researchers find it relatively challenging to determine the headwaters and the exact origin of a river. Also, large rivers are characterised by many tributaries which further complicates the researcher’s work. 

To achieve credible results, the ecologists should identify the furthest source of any river. This exercise is largely laborious due to inaccessible locations. 

Longest Rivers in the World

  1. Nile River- 6,693 km

This river flows through 11 African countries. It provides water to Egypt and Sudan which experience relatively dry conditions.

It has 2 tributaries: the Blue Nile and the White Nile. However, there has been controversy on whether the river originates from Lake Victoria, as documented, or somewhere in Burundi or Rwanda.

The White Nile is fed by River Kagera which in turn has River Ruvyironza and River Nyabarongo as its major tributaries. The source of the two tributaries is Burundi and Rwanda respectively.

On the other hand, the Blue Nile originates from Lake Tana in Ethiopia and it meets the White Nile near Khartoum in Sudan. 

This river flows through the Sahara Desert and forms a delta to drain its water into the Mediterranean Sea. 

2. Amazon River- 6,436 km

Amazon is the largest river in the world based on the volume of water discharged but the second-longest based on length. 

However, its second position has led to numerous controversy since divergent opinions believe that Amazon is indeed the longest in the world. The origin of the river is believed to be Cordillera Rumi Cruz; the same location where the Mantaro River of Peru originates. 

The river confluences with Apurimac River and other tributaries to form the Ucayali River.

This is the main source of controversy;

When the Amazon River was considered the longest in the world, the source was the headwaters of the Apurimac River. However, studies conducted revealed that the actual source was Cordillera Rumi Cruz which stripped the river its title as the world longest river.

3. Yangtze River- 6,378 km

This is the third-longest river in the world but the longest river to flow within one country. It also serves as the longest river in Asia.

It has a rich basin that serves more than ⅓ of China’s population! There are two possible origins of the river; the Tuotuo River in Tanggula Mountains and Jari Hill.

The river drains in the East China Sea in Shanghai.

4. Mississippi/Missouri- 5,970 km

This is a river system that consists of Jefferson River, Missouri River, and Mississippi River. It flows through 31 states in the US and 2 Canadian provinces.

The Mississippi River originates from Lake Itasca, Northern Minnesota and drains its water in the Gulf of Mexico.

5. Yenisei/ Angara- 5,539 km 

This is the 5th largest river in the world. River Selenge is believed to be the headwaters for the Angara River. It originates from Lake Baikal near Listvyanka and flows through Russia to join the Angara at Strelka forming Yenisei River which drains into the Arctic Ocean.

List of Top 10 Longest Rivers in the World

  1. Nile
  2. Amazon
  3. Yangtze
  4. Mississippi/Missouri 
  5. Yenisei-Angara-Selenga
  6. Yellow
  7. Ob-Irtysh
  8. Rio de la Plata-Paraná
  9. Congo
  10. Amur-Argu-Kherlen