The Longest Rivers in the World

The rivers of the world have always been an essential resource for humanity, and much of civilization has clustered and settled in river valleys. Rivers provide important benefits – called ecosystem services – that impact our day-to-day lives. They provide drinking water, irrigation, transportation, and more. They also provide a habitat and food resource for many species of animal life, including humans. Here is a look at the longest rivers in the world.

  • Nile River

    Nile River

    Running through the cradle of civilization and one of the two longest rivers in the world, the Nile River is 4160 miles long. There is an ongoing debate about the length of the Nile versus the length of the Amazon. The Nile remains a vital source of drinking water, transportation, and irrigation for crops in Africa. It runs from Central to Northeast Africa, dumping into the Mediterranean Sea. The countries it runs through include Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda. Cruises are often one of the best ways to see the river that has been said to have started middle eastern and western civilizations.

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  • Amazon River

    Amazon River

    Contested with the Nile River as the longest in the world (a debate about where they definitively begin and end), the Amazon River, at 4,345 miles by some measures, begins in the Andes in South America and dumps into the Atlantic Ocean. Though the Amazon may or may not be shorter than the Nile, by volume, the Amazon far exceeds the Nile. The Amazon supports the most complex ecosystem in the world. The maximum width of the Amazon can be up to 30 miles during the rainy season. With 1100 tributaries webbing out through the continent, it travels through the countries of Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil. Estimated to have one-fifth of the world’s water flowing along its path, the Amazon River can be viewed from the water by expedition cruises.

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  • Yangtze River

    Yangtze River

    The only river in its class that runs through one country, the Yangtze River is the third largest in the world and China’s longest. The Yangtze runs from west (the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau) to east for 3917 miles, emptying into the East China Sea. Almost one-third of the population of China lives along its banks. The river passes through the major cities of Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan, Yichang, and Chongqing. The Yangtze is also home to the largest hydropower station in the world, the Three Gorges Dam. The Yangtze River helped form the country of China thousands of years ago and, to this day, continues to be an important part of its economy and agriculture.

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  • Mississippi River

    Mississippi River

    Coming in at the fourth longest river in the world, 3902 miles long, the mighty Mississippi River has been the focal point of many classic stories about the United States for hundreds of years. Long before the arrival of Europeans, the indigenous peoples of North America lived along its banks. Starting in northern Minnesota, this river travels almost directly south into the Gulf of Mexico. It has been, and continues to be, a major source of transportation for cargo ships and cruises. It travels through the US states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

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  • Yenisei River

    Yenisei River

    The Yenisei River is the fifth longest river in the world, with a length of 3445 miles. Beginning in Mongolia, this river travels north into Russia and empties into the Yenisei Gulf in the Arctic Ocean - the largest river to drain into the Arctic Ocean. The Yenisei is important for cattle ranching, fishing, and agriculture in Russia. It also plays a vital role in the transportation of raw and construction materials. Many of the hydroelectric power stations that power Russia lays along its path. The Yenisei travels through dramatic changes in the landscape and the environment, from mountainous to arctic conditions.

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  • Yellow River

    Yellow River

    The second largest river in China, and the sixth longest in the world, is the Yellow River. The 3395-mile path it takes through China originates near the Bayan Har Mountains in the west. The river winds east in a crooked path to the Bohai Sea. It travels through nine provinces along the way and a few major cities in northern China. An essential lifeline to many in the north, parts of it are untamed with swift and fierce currents.

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  • Ob and the Irtysh River

    Ob and the Irtysh River

    Sometimes referred to as the Ob-Irtysh River because of the confluence between the Ob and Irtysh Rivers, these two rivers form a system running through the wild expanse of western Siberia. Ultimately, after a 3364-mile path, into the Gulf of Orb in the north Arctic Sea. Forming one of the largest river basins in the world. Many of the river's tributaries are frozen for much of the year.

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