Rivers have long been vital to human life. They are valuable sources of drinking water, offer a food supply and are a means of domestic and international trade, transport and tourism. These are the countries with the most rivers that are 600 miles long or greater.
Democratic Republic of Congo and Peru (8 Rivers)
With a depth of over 750 feet in some sections, the Congo River is the world’s deepest river and forms almost the entire border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo before emptying out into the Atlantic Ocean. Kinshasa and Brazzaville, the capital cities of these neighboring nations stand on opposite sides of the river. One of its main tributaries is the Kasai River, which was once mined for diamonds, attracted British and Portuguese colonists and gained notoriety for the transportation of slaves.
The Amazon River begins its 4,345-mile-long journey in Peru before passing through six South American nations. The 994-mile-long Ucayali River and 671-mile Huallaga River flow wholly within Peru.
Bolivia and India (10 Rivers)
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Shared between Bolivia and Brazil, the Madeira River is the most important tributary of the Amazon River. It provides a natural habitat for the Amazon dolphin and hundreds of other fish species. Close to Bolivia’s northeastern corner, the Beni River and Mamoré River converge to form the Madeira. During the dry season, beaches appear on the banks of the Mamoré and riverboat cruises present tourist activities.
In India, millions of Hindu devotees make the pilgrimage to Varanasi to bathe in the holy waters of the Ganges River. It also passes the holy cities of Allahabad, Patna and Rishikesh as it winds from Gangotri Glacier to Bangladesh. Unlike most of the nation’s rivers, the Narmada River is unique in that it flows westward. Meanwhile, the 855-mile-long Yamuna River is the longest tributary to flow solely through India and the country’s largest that doesn’t empty into an ocean.
Canada (13 Rivers)
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Starting at Great Slave Lake, the MacKenzie River travels west and north to the Arctic Ocean for 1,080 miles, making it Canada’s longest river system. Despite a hostile environment of tundra, the river is a habitat for over 50 fish and 200 bird species. Goods are also transported via the river as far as the isolated Inuvialuit people hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk. The country’s second-longest river is the Yukon River, which was key to the development of the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. Prior to the construction of the Klondike Highway in the 1950s, the river was the easiest way to access the Yukon. Other rivers such as the Churchill, Columbia and Saskatchewan were major pioneer highways for fur traders in the 1700s and 1800s.
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Think of Brazil and you think of the Amazon rainforest, the biggest tropical rainforest on Earth that extends into several South American countries. Some 60% of the Amazon is in Brazil and crisscrossed by the Amazon River, which passes through major cities and isolated villages. Nomadic tribes, such as the Kawahiva, Korubu and Piripkura people, exist far-removed from the modern world and rely on the river for food and water. In the waters of the Araguaia River live the endangered tucuxi dolphin and Amazonian manatee, among other fascinating aquatic mammals. South America’s second longest watercourse, the Paraná River is a lifeblood for the fishermen that reside along its banks.
China (24 Rivers)
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China’s rivers have been valuable to the Chinese culture for centuries and continue to be used for travel, trade and survival. Snaking from Tibet to the East China Sea, the 3,915-mile-long Yangtze River is the world’s third longest watercourse. It has over 700 tributaries, shelters 350 fish species, is crossed by more than 50 bridges and is home to the Tiger Leaping Gorge, which is the planet’s deepest gorge. Also flowing solely through Chinese territory is the 3,395-mile-long Yellow River, which serves as an important source of hydroelectricity. In the Chinese autonomous region of Tibet, the Mekong River starts its journey through six Asian countries to Vietnam. Rife with crocodiles, dolphins, fish and otters, it is considered among the world’s most biologically varied rivers.
United States of America (28 Rivers)
Traveling for millions of miles through the U.S. are an incredible 250,000 rivers, 28 of which are greater than 600 miles in length. Steamboats are one of the nation’s iconic images and made their mark on American history in the 1820s when they began ferrying cotton and timber along the Mississippi River. The river itself crosses 10 states from Minnesota to Louisiana. It was even the setting for Mark Twain’s classic novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” The 1,450-mile-long Colorado River is responsible for carving the dramatic landscapes of the Grand Canyon and gorges in the Rocky Mountains. Meanwhile, the Columbia River flows through the northern Rockies and has been inhabited by humans for over 10,000 years.
Russia (36 Rivers)
Russia is the largest country in the world, so it seems apt that it also possess the most rivers over 600 miles in length. Arguably the most important is the Volga River, recognized as the cradle of Russian civilization and the location of Kazan and Volgograd, among other major cities. Cruises between Moscow and St. Petersburg spend time on sections of the Volga. Additionally, the river has been immortalized in artist Ilya Repin’s “Barge Haulers on the Volga” and dramas by Alexander Ostrovsky and Maxim Gorky. Flowing for 2,736 miles from the Irkutsk region to the hostile tundra of Yakutia, the Lena River is the longest watercourse that travels wholly in Russia. Another mighty river is the Amur River, notable for its huge kaluga fish and vast quantities of sturgeon. The Trans Siberian Railway crosses the river on the Khabarovsk Bridge, a landmark that features on the 5,000 ruble banknote.