Jacqueline Oud - Culture

The biggest rivers in the world

It is already since quite some time that I am impressed by the sizes of the rivers in the world. Coming from the Netherlands, it is normal to be faced with water everyday but our Rhine is in fact so small.....

Every now and then I take my encyclopaedia to have a look at the list of the biggest rivers in the world. They are so impressive that I just can’t believe that it is possible. The tricky part however I discovered recently is that there are different ways to define the ranking of the world’s largest rivers as it can be either
* on length
* on drainage area
* on average discharge

Very tricky definitions

It got tricky when I bought a new encyclopaedia (more recent version of my nice Larousse) last year and noticed some differences in the tables that are joined. One of the differences was precisely on the biggest rivers of the world. My older version indicated length whereas the new version spoke now of drainage area. In the beginning I was quite surprised because I never did suspect anything alike. Now, better armed I wanted to find a longer list on the internet based on the length criteria. Again, I find myself confronted with differences since – as the webpage on Wikipedia rivers by lenght states: «the length of a river is not always easy to calculate. It depends on the identification of the source, the identification of the mouth, and the precise measurement of the river length between source and mouth».

How to measure

As a consequence there appears to be a rivalry between the Amazon and the Nile “fighting†to be the longest river of the world. To be honest, I am not so certain that either the Amazon or the Nile is awake at night worrying about this. Maybe there are some stakes in the game for the countries that “claim†to be owner of the river and any possible subvention, or any other issues linked to their prides.

However, it’s time to show some figures:

Rank Name Length (km) Outflow
1 Nile 6.650 Mediterranean Sea
2 Amazon 6.400 Atlantic Ocean
3 Yangtze 6.300 East Chinese Sea
4 Mississipi – Missouri 6.275 Gulf of Mexico
5 Yenisei – Angara – Selenga 5.539 Kara Sea
6 Yellow River 5.464 Bohai Sea
7 Ob 5.410 Gulf of Ob
8 Congo 4.700 Atlantic Ocean
9 Amur – Argun 4.444 Sea of Okhotsk
10 Lena 4.400 Laptev Sea

These figures are approximate and only rank by length. Should you rank according to discharge or drainage area it would be the Amazon followed by the Congo that would be on top. For more information, on the figures of the worlds main rivers (by length, completed by discharge and drainage area) go to the website mentioned above of Wikipedia rivers by lenght

Here’s a photo of part of the Amazone, found on internet. Thanks to Casalove

A wink to my little rivers at home

Just to compare, the Rhine can be found in this list holding rank 111 with a length of 1320 km’s and drainage area of 185.000 km² and is considered one of the longest rivers of Europe. The Seine is even shorter with only 776 km’s and a drainage area of 79.000 km², and ….therefore not on the list.

Hope these big ones will not dry-out too quickly....

[7 January 2008]

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