Longest river in the world: top 10 contenders for the title

Longest river in the world: top 10 contenders for the title

A river is a watercourse flowing from high places towards a large water body like the sea or a lake. The world has many rivers, mainly freshwater ones, and communities around them use the water for domestic and commercial use. The waterways range in size in terms of length, width, and depth. Which is the longest river in the world?

Longest rivers in the world
Photo: pexels.com, @radoslawsikorski
Source: UGC

The world has numerous long waterways, some stretching across several countries. They span many kilometres in width and length and have several tributaries flowing into them. From the Nile to the Amazon, here are the top 10 contenders for the longest river in the world.

Top 10 contenders for the longest river in the world

Long rivers are found on almost all the world's continents, stretching through several countries. Below are the 10 longest of them.

10. Amur - 2761 miles (4,444 km)

World's longest rivers
Amur at sunset, Khabarovsk, Siberia, Russia. Photo: DeAgostini
Source: Getty Images

Famously known as the Heilong Jiang, Amur is the world's tenth-longest waterway. It runs through northeastern China and Russia, and it's 2761 miles (4480 kilometres) long, if you count its source, Argun. The Heilong Jiang is translated in Chinese to "black dragon river," whereas Amur could either mean "big water", or "rest", depending on the Asiatic language.

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9. The Congo River - 2,900 mi (4,700 km)

Longest river in Africa
Aerial view of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2003. Photo: Craig Lapp
Source: Getty Images

The Congo is the second longest river in Africa, and it is the most mysterious. Formerly known as the Zaire, it stretches through the forest of Congo. It is the only waterway that crosses the equator twice and is the deepest in the world. It spans six countries in Central Africa. It is a water source for both humans and animals and is home to over 600 types of fish.

8. The Paraná - 3,030 mi (4,880 km)

What is the longest river in the world
Aerial view of tankers on the Parana in front of the Santa Fe' industrial area - Santa Fe Province, Argentina Photo: DeAgostini
Source: Getty Images

Located in South America, the Paraná is the second longest waterway in South America. It got its name from the abbreviation of the Tupi expression para rehe onáva, translated to "like the sea". The Paraná is part of a system that includes Río de la Plata and the Rio Grande that drains into the Atlantic Ocean. The system passes through Brazil and Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.

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7. The Ob-Irtysh Rivers - 3,360 mi (5,410 km)

The Ob is the longest in Siberia and the largest in Russia. It is located in Western Siberia and combines with the Irtysh from Kazakhstan to make the Ob-Irtysh. It wades through the grassland, semi-desert, forests and plains; it is usually frozen for six months of the year. People use it for the transportation of goods and people. The Ob drains the Arctic Ocean.

6. The Yellow River - 3,395 mi (5,464 km)

The name of the longest river in the world
The green water of Tao tributary runs into the Yellow River near the Liujiaxia reservoir on June 14, 2021 in Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province of China. Photo: Shi Youdong
Source: Getty Images

It was named Yellow River because of its colour, which results from loose sediment in the water. This mighty waterway is the sixth-longest and is also called the Huang He. It is valued in China as it is considered the beginning of ancient Chinese civilization.

This river originates in Western China's Qinghai province mountains. It drains into the Bohai Sea. This waterway has been affected by natural disasters such as floods and changing course killing millions. Building dams around it has reduced flooding and saved lives.

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5. Yenisei - 3,445 mi (5,539 km)

Longest river in Europe
Aerial view of Yenisey - Surroundings of Igarka, Siberia, Russia Photo: DeAgostini
Source: Getty Images

The Yenisey is one of the 10 longest rivers in the world, and it is the longest to discharge in the Arctic. It stretches 5,539 kilometres from its source in Mongolia to the Arctic. Yenisey drains most of its water in central Siberia as it continues towards the Kara Sea.

Its bank has been home to many nomadic people, such as Ket and Yugh. The Taimyr family graze here during winter. Unfortunately, it is heavily polluted by radioactive discharge from a plutonium factory in Zheleznogorsk.

4. Mississippi-Missouri-Jefferson river system - 3,902 mi (6,275 km)

World's longest rivers
Meander bends on Mississippi watercourse, Louisiana. Photo: Marli Miller
Source: Getty Images

The Mississippi, Missouri, and Jefferson are among the world's longest rivers. This system is the fourth longest, stretching through 31 states in the United States and two Canadian provinces. The origin of the Mississippi is Lake Itasca in Minnesota which drains into the Gulf of Mexico. The Jefferson is its farthest source. The combination makes up Mississippi–Missouri–Jefferson river system.

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3. Yangtze - 3,900 mi (6,300 km)

Longest river in Asia
Tidal tree in the Zhangjia Bay section of the Yangtze in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China, Dec 24, 2022. Photo: CFOTO
Source: Getty Images

The Yangtze is the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world. It is also the longest waterway to flow in one country. One-third of the Chinese population lives in the basin of Yangtze and uses the water for its everyday life. The government has identified its source as the Tuotuo tributary in the Tanggula Mountains.

However, new data show the Jari Hill from where the Dam Qu tributary originates as the source of the mighty Yangtze. More tributaries feed the watercourse as it wades through the Chinese mountains. It finally discharges at the East China Sea at Shanghai.

2. The Amazon River - 4,000 mi (6,500 km)

The name of the longest river in the world
Amazon River near Porto Trombetas, Para state, Brazil, on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. Photo: Jonne Roriz
Source: Getty Images

The Amazon is one of the longest rivers in the world, taking second position. This, however, is highly disputed as scholars argue about the origin of the Amazon. A 2014 study states that the origin of the Amazon is at the Cordillera Rumi Cruz. This would make it the longest in the world.

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The Amazon has its source in the Andes mountains in South America. As the name suggests, this watercourse runs through the Amazon forest. It cuts through seven countries draining into the Atlantic Ocean. Although it's not the longest on earth, it has the largest drainage basin by width, which sometimes reaches up to 120 mi (190 km).

1. The Nile - 4,130 mi (6,650 km)

Which river is the longest
Aerial view of Cairo's Nile island of Zamalek and nearby Tahrir Square (R bottom) and Abdel Monam Riad Square. Photo by Amir Makar
Source: Getty Images

What is the longest river in the world? The name of the longest river in the world is the Nile. It stretches for 4,130 mi (6,650 km) across East and north-eastern Africa. The waterway originates from Lake Victoria and is called the father of African rivers.

The Nile passes through 11 countries. These countries are Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, DRC, Eritrea, Burundi, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt. Its two main tributaries are the Blue and White Nile. This natural resource supports the communities in domestic use, irrigation, transport and hydropower generation.

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Which is the longest river in Europe?

The longest river in Europe is the Volga River. It is approximately 3690 km (2,293 mi) long, number 18 in the world.

Which river is the longest in the world?

The Nile is the longest in the world, stretching for 6650 kilometres. It is also the longest watercourse in Africa, cutting across 11 countries.

Which is the longest river in the world? Although some scholars dispute this, the Nile is the longest river in the world. Some say the Amazon is the longest, but that is up for debate. The above rivers are found various continents and stretch through several countries. They are a great source of livelihood for communities in terms of food, water and transport.

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Naomi Karina (Lifestyle writer) Naomi Karina has been a digital content writer for more than two years. She joined the Legit team in August 2022. She graduated Bachelor of Commerce from KCA University in 2012. She also holds a Higher Diploma in Human Resources from the IHRM and a Diploma in Marketing from Kenyatta University. She is a content creator who enjoys writing about various topics such as biographies, entertainment and business. In 2023, Naomi finished the AFP course on Digital Investigation Techniques. She expanded her skills in 2024 by undertaking the Google News Initiative course.

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