The Centre for River Nations
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(Listed in rough order of human occupation.)


Congo or Zaire

Length:  4,667 km / 2,894 miles, world's 5th longest
Catchment:  3,690,000 km2 / 1,425,000 miles2, Africa's largest

The only river on the planet which flows in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

The Congo actually emerges from the Lualaba River which rises from a plateau some 1,418 metres above sea level.  The Lualaba joins with the Lufira and the Luvua Rivers.  The Luvua is dervived from the Luapula (also known as the Chambezi) which is also considered to be a headstream of the Congo.  Many dramatic waterfalls exist along the Luvua and the commbined rivers are joined by the Lukuga which flows in from Lake Tanganyika.  At 80 km downstream, a long navigable section ends as the the "Portes d'Enfer", a particularly wild section of rapids, generates copious amounts of white water.  The rapids run for some 120 km, at which point another navigable section kicks in and lasts for another 300 km until it reaches the Stanley Falls.  After the seven sections of the Stanley, the river officially becomes the Zaire and is then navigable for 1600 km.  Lower down the river is as much as 15 km wide.  Navigability ends with the Stanley Pool, across which the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville face each other.  After the Pool comes the 32 sections of the Livingstone Falls as the river cuts through the Crystal Mountains.  It then broadens out into an estuary, part of which forms a large whirlpool known as the "Devil's Cauldron".  The river then splits into two channels around Matoba Island followed by the delta.  Beneath the surface, the river has carved a canyon which extends far out to sea. 


Lualaba, Luapula, Luvua, Lufira, Lukuga, Lomami, Aruwimi, Ubangi, Sangha, Lukenie, Kasai

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Length:  6,670 km / 4,135 miles, world's longest
Catchment:  2,900,000 km2 / 1,100,000 miles2,

Nile mouth from space

nile mouth from space

The mother of rivers and the mother of the human species.  The fertile shores of the Nile were the first repositories of human agriculture - the dawning of the era of systematic human grouping.

The Nile catchment area includes parts Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, and even Zaire. 

The Nile is the main outlet for Africa's largest lake - Lake Victoria - so, even at its source it is a substantial river.  It drops to lake Albert, and then again down to the Sudan where it is known as Bahr el Jebel.  For some 500 kilometres it runs through Sudanese swamp land until it reaches Lake No.  From there it becomes the clear running White Nile until it converges with the Blue at Khartoum.  From thence, it becomes the Nile proper for the remaining 3000 km to the Mediterranean Sea.  During the wet season, the Blue provides about 70% of the Nile's water, but as the dry season comes, it is the White that keeps the river flowing. 

The river pours into Lake Nasser and is utilised for power at the massive Aswan Dam at the lake's exit point.  From there, it runs through desert all the way to Cairo.  The Nile valley is only about 1.5 km wide throughout most of this stage, before widening to as much as 20 km at the delta, passing the Great Pyramids just south of Cairo.  In the delta, criss-crosssed by multiple channels and sub-tributaries, the river is actually known as two separate branches - the Damietta and the Rosetta. 

Being the mother of humanity, it is perhaps not surprising to realise that it is the most studied river on the planet.  Water level and other records have been kept since 711 AD.

Bahr al Abyad (White), Bahr al Azraq (Blue), Atbarah, Bahr el Gazal

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