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What are the Longest Rivers in the World?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 23, 2024
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There are a number of long rivers in the world, but it can be unexpectedly difficult to determine the length of a river. Since many rivers join together in river systems, it isn't always easy to say where one individual river begins. In many cases, the river's length is measured from the headwaters that are farthest from the river's mouth; in some instances, this means that the "source" of the river is on a tributary that is known by a different name than that of the main river.

Of the longest rivers in the world, one goes through ten countries. The Nile travels through Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Other rivers, like the Mississippi, go through only one country.

While the Amazon is usually considered to be the second longest river, it carries more water than any other river. The second and third longest rivers in the Amazon system, the Madeira and the Purus, respectively, are also some of the longest rivers in the world, as are two major portions of the Mississippi-Missouri system.

Australia doesn't have an individual river in the top 20. The longest river in Australia is the Murray River at about 1,475 miles (2,375 km). When combined with other rivers in the Murray-Darling River system, however, the length grows to at least 2,094 miles (3,369 km), putting it on the top 20 list.

Of the top 20 longest rivers in the world, only one is in Europe, while three are in Africa. The next longest river in Europe, after the Volga, is the Danube, at about 1,771 miles (2,850 km). Nearly half of the 20 longest rivers are in Asia.

The Longest Rivers in the World and their Approximate Lengths
RankRiverLocationlength in mi (km)
1NileAfrica4,132 (6,650)
2AmazonSouth America3,980 (6,405)
3Chang Jiang (Yangtze)Asia3,915 (6,300)
4Mississippi-MissouriNorth America3,870 (6,228)
5YeniseiAsia3,434 (5,526)
6Huang He (Yellow)Asia3,395 (5,464)
7Ob-IrtyshAsia3,354 (5,398)
8Zaire (Congo)Africa2,914 (4,690)
9Heilong (Amur)Asia2,744 (4,416)
10LenaAsia2,734 (4,400)
11MackenzieNorth America2,635 (4,241)
12MekongAsia2,600 (4,184)
13NigerAfrica2,590 (4,168)
14ParanaSouth America2,485 (3,999)
15VolgaEurope2,266 (3,647)
16Shatt al-Arab-EuphratesAsia2,236 (3,598)
17PurusSouth America2,100 (3,380)
18Murray-DarlingAustralia2,094 (3,369)
19MadeiraSouth America2,013 (3,240)
20YukonNorth America1,980 (3,186)
CulturalWorld.org is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for CulturalWorld.org, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By Izzy78 — On Apr 12, 2012

@TreeMan - I absolutely agree with that statement and it is quite amazing how some people will debate such a relatively simple topic.

I like to know unusual aspects about rivers, like the fact that the Nile is probably the only river on this list that flows from south to north instead of from north to south.

The Nile starts in the south central part of Africa and because of the geography of the land, flows upward into the Mediterranean Sea around Alexandria.

There is also a lot of history about this river, such as how farmers relied on the Spring flooding of the Nile to put nutrients in the ground to produce a growing season. Damming up the river with the Aswan Dam ended this and hurt a lot of farmers.

There is also and instance of this happening with the Yangtze River as people were forced off their lands due tot he flooding of the dam and many ecosystems were destroyed.

These types of facts interest me and I am wondering if anyone knows any more facts similar to these with other famous rivers?

By TreeMan — On Apr 12, 2012

@matthewc23 - I have to agree with you on that. I remember being in class in grade school and there being a debate about which river is longer, because the Amazon has so many different outlets and this debate was hotly contested, with the majority of class liking the Nile because it was relatively straight up and down.

I wonder if it comes down to the fact that on a map a straight up and down river will look longer than one that winds and bends.

I do not really know why people become defensive about this type of topic that is relatively simple, but for some reason it does happen and I prefer to learn simple facts about the rivers and their importance and not just debate about which one holds the world record for length.

By matthewc23 — On Apr 11, 2012

@jcraig - You are correct and I agree with you with the fact concerning the Nile being relatively straight, but this is unusual for most rivers.

The Amazon is part of a river basin as it includes a lot of branching in the river itself, but that should not dilute the fact that it is one of the world's longest rivers.

Rivers are naturally formed over time and their shape is always in regards to the land area around them. The Mississippi River as well as the Nile are on relatively flat ground and do not wind and bend so much, so that is why they have their basic shape.

Other rivers loop around mountains and other terrain that make it seem as long as the other rivers. Also the branching off points allow for the river to be longer, but are still connected to the main river and are simply caused by the terrain that the river is going through.

I find it a little unfair that some people take away from the length of these rivers for the simple fact that the geography causes them to bend the way they do.

By jcraig — On Apr 10, 2012

I find this list of the top ten longest rivers int he world quite interesting as the Nile, which is the longest river in the world, seems to be one oft he few relatively straight rivers on this list.

Most of the rivers that are included on this list have a lot of point that branch off and are really part of the larger river basin, but still count as being part of the same river.

A great example of this would be the Amazon River and it really winds and bends and branches off across the river basin while the Nile simply is relatively straight.

By anon72657 — On Mar 24, 2010

what about the yantze river? and is the murray darling and the murray river the same?

By anon71779 — On Mar 19, 2010

Top 10 longest rivers of the world

1. Nile 7,088 km

2. Amazon 6,575 km

3. Yangtze 6,236 km

4. Mississippi-Missouri 6,084 km

5. Yenisy 5,816 km

6. Yellow 5,778 km

7. Ob-Irtysh 5,525 km

8. Amur(Heilongjiang) 5,498 km

9. Congo(Zaire) 5,118 km

10.Mekong(Lancangjiang) 4,909 km

By anon63124 — On Jan 30, 2010

what about the Murry darling river in australia?

By somerset — On Feb 19, 2008

Danube is 2780 km long and it runs through nine countries, from the Black Forest to the Black Sea. It is the second largest river in Europe.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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