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What is the Largest River in the World?

Posted on March 31 2011

As with most attempts to rank natural bodies, the question of the largest river in the world has multiple answers. This is because the idea of largest is inexact. Does largest mean longest? If so, then the answer is the Egypt’s Nile river. However, most people take largest to mean physical volume of water, in which case the largest river in the world is the Amazon, located in South America.

The Amazon can be easily located using digital maps or an atlas. It starts in the Andes Mountains and flows down to the Atlantic Ocean to a point referred to as the River Sea — a 50 mile wide estuary where fresh water meets sea water. The Amazon empties approximately seven million cubic feet of water into the ocean every second. This is a larger amount than the volume of water discharged by the next six largest rivers combined. In fact, the Amazon is believed to move twenty percent of the fresh water that enters the ocean on the entire planet.

The river has more than 200 tributaries and holds the distinction of having no bridges cross it at any point. Much of the river flows through rainforest, far from cities, villages, and roads and providing habitat for countless varieties of flora and fauna.

The Amazon is still ranked as the second longest river, winding through 4000 miles of territory (approximately 6400 kilometers). This puts it just behind the Nile which comes in at 4049 miles and ahead of the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) river in China at 3917 miles and the Mississippi River in the United States at 3870 miles. The Russian river Yenisey finishes out the top five longest rivers at 3434 miles.

In the last few years evidence has been offered to suggest that the Amazon is actually longer than the Nile, but it will take some time for that claim to be examined. If it is validated, then the Amazon will be the undisputed king of the world’s rivers.

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