Rivers are an integral part of human society, with evidence of civilizations along their banks dating back to the Palaeolithic Era. They’re used for drinking water, transportation, irrigation, and as important sources of food. Although there is some controversy surrounding some of the rivers’ exact lengths, this list is a general outline of 10 of the longest rivers in the world, their features, and their sources. 

Amur-Argu-Kherlen River

Length: 2,763 miles / 4,444 kilometers

Source: Onon River-Shilka River and the Kherlen River-Ergune River

Amur-Argu-Kherlen River
Amur-Argu-Kherlen River runs a long way between Russia and China

Credit: Eget verk

The Amur-Argu-Kherlen river system runs along the border of Russia and China. It is known n Chinese as Heilong Jiang, meaning “Black Dragon River,” and it thrives from monsoon rains that fall annually. The river is also home to more than 100 fish species, the largest of which is the Kaluga, reaching up to 5.6 meters or 18 feet in length. It has a drainage basin of 1,855,00 square kilometers or 716,00 square miles. 

Congo-Lualaba-Chambeshi River 

Length: 2,920 miles / 4,700 km

Source: Mountains of the East African Rift, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Mweru

Congo-Lualaba-Chambeshi River
Congo-Lualaba-Chambeshi River is the ninth longest river system

Credit: Norberak egina

The Congo-Lualaba-Chambeshi River is the world’s ninth longest river system. The Congo River is the second-longest in Africa and was formerly known as the Zaire River. It is also the world’s deepest river, reaching 720 feet or 220 meters. The Congo-Lualaba-Chambeshi River is the only river in the world to cross the equator twice. 

Río de la Plata-Paraná River System

Length: 3,032 miles / 4,880 kilometers 

Source: Grande and Paranaíba rivers

Río de la Plata-Paraná River System
The long Río de la Plata-Paraná River System

Thief12 (talk) (Carlo Giovannetti), CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Río de la Plata-Paraná river system flows through Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Uruguay. The Río de la Plata is 290 kilometers long, but it joins with the Paraná and the Rio Grande. The Río de la Plata is also the world’s widest river, expanding to 220 kilometers in some places. 

Ob-Irtysh River

Length: 3,361 miles / 5,410 kilometers 

Source: Mongolian Altai in Dzungaria 

Ob-Irtysh River spans over 3,300 miles

Credit: Background and river course data from http://www2.demis.nl/maps

The Ob-Irtysh river system is considered to be the seventh-largest river in the world. It runs through Russia, Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia and is the largest river in Russia. The Ob River is located primarily in Western Siberia. It merges with the Irtysh River in Kazakhstan and covers various ecosystems from deserts to plains.

Yellow River 

Length: 3,395 miles / 5,464 kilometers

Source: Bayan Har Mountains

Yellow River
The second longest river in Asia – Yellow River

The Yellow River is the second-longest river in Asia and is named for the color of its silt. It is located in China and originates in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in Western China. It empties into the Bahai Sea near Dongying. It is often referred to as the “cradle of Chinese civilization.” Settlements along the banks of the river date back to the Palaeolithic Era, during a time when the river was prone to flooding. According to Phys, the river flooded 1,593 Tims before 1946 and has caused some of the worst disasters in Chinese history. 

Yenisei River

Length: 3,442 miles / 5,539 km 

Source: Mungaragiyn-Gol

Yenisei River
Yenisei River spans more than 3,400 miles

Ninaras, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Yenisei River is the fifth-longest river in the world. It originates in Mongolia and flows into central Siberia before flowing into the Kara Sea. The river divides the Western Siberian Plain from the Central Siberian Plateau. It is home to 55 native fish species, two of which are endemic, and numerous species of flora and fauna, including the Siberian pine and Siberian larch.

Mississippi-Missouri-Jefferson River System 

Length: 3,902 miles / 6,275 kilometers 

Source: Bower’s Spring Montana 

Mississippi-Missouri-Jefferson River System
A section of the Mississippi river system

Credit: Brian Stansberry

Grouped together, these three rivers make up the fourth-longest river in the world. They meet one another in St. Louis and Montana. The majority of the river, the Mississippi, runs north-south, from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. It moves through or drains into 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces. The river is incredibly important, historically, and culturally, dating back to the Native American nations that lived along with it. Many groups have used the river for transportation and build cities along its banks. 

Grouped together, these three rivers make up the fourth-longest river in the world. They meet one another in St. Louis and Montana. The majority of the river, the Mississippi, runs north-south, from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. It moves through or drains into 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces. The river is incredibly important, historically, and culturally, dating back to the Native American nations that lived along with it. Many groups have used the river for transportation and build cities along its banks. 

Yangtze River

Length: 3,915 miles / 6,300 kilometers 

Source: Glacier of Jianggendiru

Yangtze River
The Yangtze River is over 3,900 miles long

The Yangtze River is the third-longest river in the world and the largest river in Asia. It has its source at the Glacier of Jianggendiru, on the main peak of Tanggula Mountain in China. The river flows into the East China Sea with a runoff of 33,980 cubic meters per second. It also acts as a dividing line between North and South China. To the north, there is a drier climate to and to the south, it is more humid and warm. Many of China’s most important cities were developed on the banks of the Yangtze. These include Chongqing, Wuhan, Shanghai, Nanjing, and Yichang. 

The Yangtze River is the third-longest river in the world and the largest river in Asia. It has its source at the Glacier of Jianggendiru, on the main peak of Tanggula Mountain in China. The river flows into the East China Sea with a runoff of 33,980 cubic meters per second. It also acts as a dividing line between North and South China. To the north, there is a drier climate to and to the south, it is more humid and warm. Many of China’s most important cities were developed on the banks of the Yangtze. These include Chongqing, Wuhan, Shanghai, Nanjing, and Yichang. 

Amazon River 

Length: 4,000 miles / 6,437 kilometers

Source: Marañón, Apurímac, and Mantaro Rivers

The Amazon River is an incredibly long river

Credit: ESA, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO, via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

The Amazon River is argued by some to be the longest in the world, but it usually comes in second on a list of the world’s longest rivers. It weaves through the Amazon Rainforest, commonly referred to as the “lungs of the world.” It is the most powerful river in the world when one considers volume and width. It reaches a span of around 30 miles or 48 kilometers in some areas during the rainy season. 

The river’s source is in the Andes, where heavy rainfall fuels the river and makes its way east through rainforests and lowlands. It eventually empties into the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Brazil. The Amazon River has over 1,100 tributaries and is thought to carry one-fifth of all water that runs on the Earth’s surface, according to Live Science. The Amazon is located in six countries, Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela. The majority can be found in Brazil. 

The river’s source is in the Andes, where heavy rainfall fuels the river and makes its way east through rainforests and lowlands. It eventually empties into the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Brazil. The Amazon River has over 1,100 tributaries and is thought to carry one-fifth of all water that runs on the Earth’s surface, according to Live Science. The Amazon is located in six countries, Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela. The majority can be found in Brazil. 

Nile River 

Length: 4,132 miles  / 6,695 kilometers

Source: The Blue Nile and the White Nile 

The River Nile is the longest river in the world
The River Nile is the longest river in the world

Although some argue differently, the Nile River is considered to be the longest river in the world. It flows through eleven countries (Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt, reaching from central to northeast Africa. It drains into the Mediterranean Sea at a rate of 2,800 cubic meters per second and has two sources, the White Nile, which starts in South Sudan, and the Blue Nile, which starts in Ethiopia. The two mega in the city of Khartoum in Sudan. 

The river is significant for the surrounding animal and human populations. Along its banks, one can find a great deal of cultivation, proving to be life-saving for civilizations reaching back at least 5,000 years to Ancient Egypt. Its annual flooding means that the soil spread across the banks, leaving behind a perfect mud for growing crops. It is also a critical means of transport across the continent. There are some