Longest Rivers of the World

River length is not as easy to calculate as one might expect. It involves calculating the precise distance between the beginning of a river, also known as the river’s source, and the end of a river, or its mouth. However, it is not always easy to determine where the source and mouth are located, which makes measuring the distance difficult. Many times the source of a river is formed by seasonal streams, swamps, or lakes that change depending on the time of the year. Therefore, during different times of the year, the river would technically be longer than at other times. Mouths are also hard to determine because many will widen into the ocean or dwindle down until they simply evaporate. Again, the ending point can vary depending on the season, which means the length of the river will also vary. Another aspect to take into consideration is all the tributaries that make up a river. Technically, the length of a river should also include all its tributaries.

Because of these factors, some people consider certain rivers longer than other people. For example, on many top five listings, you will find the Missouri-Mississippi. However, this combines the length of the Missouri River and the length of the Mississippi River. Personally, I consider these two separate rivers, so I left it off my top five list. Here are the rivers that I consider the five longest on Earth.

1) The Nile
The Nile river is 4,184 miles long. Its name comes from the Greek word “Nelios,” which means river valley. It begins in two different places: Lake Victoria in Ugandi and Lake Tana in Ethiopia. According to estimations, this massive river drains almost 1,300,000 square miles of area in Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zaire, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi and flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The river is used primarily for agriculture and transportation, and it allows life to exist in the desert areas of Africa that it flows through. Despite the desert, the Nile provides fertile soil along its banks, which the Egyptians rely heavily on for agriculture.

2) The Amazon
The Amazon River is 4,160 miles long, which makes it the second longest river. However, it is the widest and is responsible for 20% of river water that drains into oceans. The Amazon begins in Iquitos Peru, and then flows into the Atlantic Ocean off the Brazilian Coast. Despite its large size it only flows through the countries of Peru and Brazil. It is part of the Amazon Rainforest, so it has a vast array of plants and animal species, many of which we probably don’t even know about yet. It is also used primarily for agriculture and transportation. It was named by the Spanish Explorer Francisco de Orellana after he ran into a tribe of fierce women. He named the river after the Greek Amazons, who were warrior women.

3) The Chang Jiang
Also known as the Yangtze, this river is 3,964 miles long. It begins on the Oinghai-Tibet Plateau in Western China, and ends in the East China Sea. The river is primarily used for transportation, however it also aids in rice production and is used for private tours and sightseeing. The name Chang Jiang means Long River.

4) Huang He
China is also home to the fourth longest river, the Huang He. This river flows for 3,395 miles. It also begins in Western China, but on the Kunlun Mountains. It then flows into the Gulf of Bohai. It is also known as the Yellow River because of the silt color that flows downstream. This river is known for flooding often and causing many deaths. One flooding was intentionally done by the Chinese troops during World War II to stop the Japanese from invading.

5) Ob-Irtysh
At 3,362 miles long, Russia’s Ob-Irtysh is the fifth longest river in the world. It begins in the Altai Mountains, where the Biya and Katun rivers join. It then flows into the Golf of Ob. For about half the year, this river is frozen, but once it thaws out, it is important for sightseeing and trade. It used to be a very productive fishery, but due to pollution and nuclear waste, the fisheries have been damaged.