Did you know that all rivers combined only cover about 0.1% of all the land on the planet?
Regardless, they have been extremely important in human history, and many of the world’s biggest cities were built along the shores of mighty rivers. In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the most famous rivers in the world!
Related: Check out some of the most wonderful waterfalls!
Most famous rivers in the world
- Location: Turkey, Syria, Iraq
- Length: 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles)
The Tigris is one of the most famous rivers in the world because it’s one of the rivers that encloses the historical region of Mesopotamia, an area considered to be the birthplace of the first human civilizations. The Neolithic Revolution took place around 10,000 B.C. and marked the transition from a nomadic lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement. The Tigris played a vital role in this and the first settlements were built around this important river.
- Location: Turkey, Iraq, Syria
- Length: 2,800 kilometers (1,700 miles)
The Euphrates is the other river in the historical region of Mesopotamia and had an equally important role in the transition period in human history. While the Tigris is located on the right, the Euphrates is located on the left. Mesopotamia literally translates to “the land between the two rivers.” Both rivers originate in the Armenian Highlands of eastern Turkey, flow through the same countries, and empty into the Persian Gulf.
3. Mississippi River
- Location: United States
- Length: 3,730 kilometers (2,320 miles)
The Mississippi River is the second-longest river in North America and is part of the second-largest drainage system on the continent as well. It flows all the way from its source, a small glacial lake called Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, to the Mississippi River Delta and eventually drains into the Gulf of Mexico. The area along the river has been inhabited for thousands of years by Native Americans.
- Location: Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi
- Length: 6,650 kilometers (4,130 miles)
The Nile River is located in the northeastern part of Africa and is considered to be the longest river in the world, except by the Brazilian government which claims that the Amazon is longer. The two main tributaries to the Nile are the White Nile, which originates in one of the most famous lakes in the world, Lake Victoria, and the Blue Nile, which originates in Lake Tana. The Nile is one of the most famous rivers in the world because the entire Ancient Egyptian civilization was situated along its fertile shores.
5. Amazon River
- Location: Brazil, Colombia, Peru
- Length: 6,575 kilometers (4,086 miles)
The Amazon River is another extremely long river and is located in South America. It’s by far the largest river by discharge volume of water in the world. It discharges an astounding 209,000 cubic meters of water per second (7,400,000 cubic feet/second) which is more than the 7 other longest rivers in the world combined. It also has the largest drainage basin of any river in the world, covering an area of 7,050,000 square kilometers (2,720,000 square miles).
- Location: India, Bangladesh
- Length: 2,704 kilometers (1,680 miles)
The Ganges River is one of the most important rivers in Asia and originates from the Gangotri Glacier in the western part of one of the most famous mountain ranges in the world, the Himalaya Mountains. It’s important because it’s the source of water for millions of people living along its shores in both Bangladesh and India. Unfortunately, it suffers from extreme pollution which threatens both human and animal life. The Ganges is also considered to be a sacred river for Hindus who use it as a ritual bathing location.
7. Yangtze River
- Location: China
- Length: 6,300 kilometers (3,900 miles)
The Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia. It flows all across China from west to east and drains into the East China Sea near the city of Shanghai. The river has played a crucial role in the history of China for thousands of years. It still does as the Yangtze River Delta is one of the most prosperous regions in the country and the Chinese government actively works on developing the transport network alongside the river. The most powerful dam in the world, the Three Gorges Dam, is located on the river.
8. Volga River
- Location: Russia
- Length: 3,531 kilometers (2,194 miles)
The Volga River is the longest river in Europe and flows all the way from central Russia to southern Russia to eventually drain into the Caspian Sea. The fact that 9 out 10 of the biggest cities in Russia are located within its drainage basin clearly emphasizes its importance in the history of the country. Therefore it’s considered by many to be the national river of Russia. It’s often referred to locally as “Mother Volga,” a reference to the home country which is referred to as “Mother Russia.”
9. Colorado River
- Location: United States, Mexico
- Length: 2,330 kilometers (1,450 miles)
The Colorado River is the most important river in the southwestern part of the United States and the northern part of Mexico. It flows in five U.S. states, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, and two Mexican states, Baja California and Sonora. It originates in one of the most prominent mountain ranges in North America, the Rocky Mountains, and flows through one of the most iconic natural landmarks in the world, the Grand Canyon. It also flows through some of the aridest locations in North America, the Sonoran Desert, and the Mojave Desert.
10. Danube River
- Location: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine
- Length: 2,850 kilometers (1,770 miles)
The Danube River is the second-longest river in Europe. It originates in the Black Forest in Germany and flows through 10 central and eastern European countries, before eventually draining into the Black Sea. No other river in the world flows through more countries with only the Nile coming close with 9 countries. The Danube River has been crucial in the formation of Europe as it was the natural border of the Ancient Roman Empire for hundreds of years. It also served as an important trade route and dozens of important European cities were founded along its shores!
This concludes our list of the most famous rivers in the world, a collection of natural flowing watercourses that form an integral part of the hydrological cycle on the planet!