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15 Most Famous Rivers In The World We All Learned About In School

There are numerous rivers spread across the world. They are vital resources that provide water supplies to communities and ecosystems.

These waterways offer habitats and food to some organisms. Additionally, they are also means of transportation and sources of recreation. These are the most famous rivers in the world, you learned from school.

Rivers around the world
An aerial view of a river passing through the farmlands.

Famous rivers have existed for centuries, shaping the landscapes and culture of communities. These huge waterways have been used for domestic and commercial purposes. They stretch thousands of miles and cut through several countries. Here is a look at the most famous rivers in the world.

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15 most famous rivers

Rivers are found in every country and range in size and length. Below are the most famous rivers around the world stretching across different continents.

1. The Nile River

Most important rivers in the world
Aerial view of Nile River cutting across farmland in the countryside north of Egypt’s southern city and province of Luxor.

The Nile is the longest river in the world, stretching 6,695 km (4,160 miles). It is also one of the most important rivers in the world. The Nile flows northwards from Lake Victoria through 11 countries into the Mediterranean Sea. It is a source of livelihood for communities in terms of irrigation, transport and drinking water.

2. The Amazon River

Most famous rivers in the world
A carrier ship on a tributary of the Amazon River near Porto Trombetas, Para state, Brazil, on Friday, September 16, 2022.

The Amazon is also among the great rivers of the world. The second-longest waterway flows more than 6,400 km (3,977 miles) through the Amazon forest. The Amazon starts in the Andes Mountains and flows to the Atlantic Ocean. Due to persistent drought this year, it has fallen to the lowest levels in centuries.

3. The Congo River

Important rivers
An aerial view of the Congo River on the outskirts of Mbandaka, Equateur Province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Congo is one of the most important water sources in Central Africa. It stretches 4,700 km (2,922 miles) through the dense Congo forest. The Congo River passes through six countries and is a lifeline for many people regarding transport, food and power.

4. The Ganges River

Famous world rivers
Aerial view of a bridge and river locks at River Ganges, Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India.

The Ganges is one of the famous world rivers. It stretches 2,525 km (1,560 miles) from the Himalayan Mountains through India and Bangladesh and empties into the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges is an essential resource in India’s main religion and is a place of worship and cleansing.

6. The Mississippi River

Great rivers of the world
An aerial view of pipes across the Mississippi River on October 09, 2023, in Belle Chasse, Louisiana.

The Mississippi watercourse is in the United States, stretching 5,971km (3,710 miles) through 10 states. It starts at Minnesota’s Lake Itasca and drains into the Gulf of Mexico. Communities use the Mississippi waterway for fishing and farming. It is a significant fish producer and home to over 250 species.

7. Thames

Rivers around the world
Aerial views of river Thames on 27th September 2023, in London, England.

Thames is the most famous waterway in England, though it’s the second longest in the country. Thames is derived from the Roman name Tamesis, which means dark water. Although sewage was disposed of in the watercourse initially, it is currently a source of drinking water. Thames is home to a variety of species, including fish and birds.

8. The Yangtze River

Great rivers of the world
A view of the Yangtze River across Chongqing, China, September 16, 2023.

The Yangtze is among the longest rivers in Asia and the third longest globally, stretching 5,464 km (3,395 miles) through China. The Yangtze has been among the most important rivers since the ancient Chinese civilization. It originates in the Tanggula Mountain Range and drains to the East China Sea in Shanghai. Other than transport, the waterway is used to irrigate rice.

9. The Euphrates River

Most important rivers in the world
An aerial view shows the water level in the Euphrates River as seen from the Iraqi holy city of Najaf on January 14, 2023.

The Euphrates is one of the oldest waterways used in Mesopotamia, the first civilisation in the world. The water source supplied Mesopotamia with water for various uses such as agriculture, transport and fish. This important watercourse starts in Turkey and flows across Syria to Iraq.

10. The Zambezi River

Most famous rivers in the world
An aerial view taken on June 29, 2018 shows the site of the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Zambezi is located in the southern part of Africa. It stretches through six countries, from Zambia to the Indian Ocean. The Zambezi is home to the breathtaking Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. This waterway provides water for agriculture, food, and transport for everyday life.

11. The Mekong

Famous rivers in the world
This aerial view an area of the Mekong River where freshwater dolphins live in Kratie province, Cambodian.

The Mekong is famous for being the Mother of Water in Southeast Asia. It flows through six countries: China, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The 4,350 km (2,703 miles) long water source supports communities along its banks regarding food, transport and irrigation.

12. The Volga River

Important rivers
An aerial view taken on 5 May 2021 shows a railway bridge over The Volga River in the city of Astrakhan.

The Volga is the longest in Europe. It is in Russia and flows 2,294 miles from Valdai Hills into the Caspian Sea. The water source derives its name from the Slavic word Volga, which means wetness. Communities along the waterway use it for transport, power, and irrigation.

13. The Colorado River

Most famous rivers
An aerial view of the Colorado River swollen by winter snowmelt water as it flows near farmland on May 26, 2023, near Yuma, Arizona.

The Colorado watercourse is known for its scenic beauty and impact on communities. It flows through the famous Grand Canyon, stretching over 2,330 km (1450 miles). It has been an essential resource to the native Americans for centuries for transport and food. Today, the waterway is a vital source of hydroelectric power.

14. The Rhine

Most important rivers in the world
Aerial view of the Karlsruhe Rhine Bridge cutting across over The Rhine River.

The Rhine is the second-longest waterway in Western Europe. It has its source in the Swiss Alps and flows into the North Sea. The Rhine cuts through six nations and forms the border between France and Germany. Though it is the most polluted river in Europe, plans are underway to rehabilitate it.

15. The Danube

Most famous rivers in the world
Aerial view of the Danube in Durnstein, Wachau, Austria.

The Danube is one of the most popular rivers around the world. It originates in the Black Forest Mountains and flows through nine countries into the Black Sea. The watercourse is approximately 2,850 km (1,770 miles) long. The Danube is one of the crucial shipping routes across Europe. Communities around the water source use it for travel, fishing, and transport.

Rivers are vital to the planet’s ecosystem, providing habitats, water supplies, and energy. They also play a significant role in shaping the cultures, history and landscapes of the countries they pass through. And above are some of the most famous rivers in the world.

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