List of rivers by length

View of the Nile River, the longest in the world, from a cruiseboat, between Luxor and Aswan in Egypt.

This is a list of the longest rivers on Earth. It includes river systems over 1,000 kilometers.

Definition of length

The length of a river is not always easy to calculate. It depends on the identification of the source, the identification of the mouth, and the precise measurement of the river length between source and mouth. As a result, the length measurements of many rivers are only approximations. In particular, there has for long been disagreement whether the Amazon or the Nile is the world's longest river.

The source of a river may be hard to determine because a river typically has many tributaries. Among the many sources, the one that is farthest away from the mouth is considered as the source of the river, thus giving a maximal river length. In practice, the tributary with the farthest source is not always the one given the name of the river. For example, the farthest source of the Mississippi River system is the source of the Missouri River; but a different tributary is identified as the Mississippi. When the river is measured from mouth to farthest source, it is called the Mississippi-Missouri. Also, it is hard to state exactly where a river begins as very often rivers are formed by seasonal streams, swamps, or changing lakes. In this article, length means the length of the river system, including all tributaries.

The mouth of a river may be hard to determine in cases where the river has a large estuary that gradually widens and opens into the ocean; examples are the Amazon River and the Saint Lawrence River. Some rivers do not have a mouth, instead they evaporate, and the exact point where the river ends will vary seasonally.

The length of a river between source and mouth may be hard to determine because of a lack of precise maps. In these cases, the measured length of a river will depend on the scale of the map on which the measurement is based; in general, due to the fractal quality of a river, the larger the scale, the longer the resulting length measurement. This issue was discovered by Lewis Fry Richardson and also applies when measuring borders between countries and coastlines. Ideally, length measurements should be based on maps that are of a large enough scale to show the width of the river.

Even when precise maps are available, the length measurement is not always clear. A river may have multiple arms. It may depend on whether the centre or the edge of the river is taken as reference point. It may not be clear how to measure the length through a lake: this may also vary by season. These points make it difficult, if not impossible, to get a precise measurement of the length of a river or stream.

List of rivers longer than 1000 km

One should take the aforementioned discussion into account when using the data in the following table. For most rivers, different sources provide conflicting information on the length of a river system. The information in different sources is between parentheses.

Nile River in Egypt.
Continent colour key
Africa Asia Europe North America Australia South America
River Length (km) Length (miles) Drainage area (km²) Average discharge (m³/s) Outflow Countries in the drainage basin
1. Nile 6,690 4,157 2,870,000 5,100 Mediterranean Sea Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of the Congo
2. Amazon 6,387
(6,762)
3,969
(4,202)
6,915,000 219,000 Atlantic Ocean Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela
3. Yangtze
(Chang Jiang)
6,380
(5,797)
3,964
(3,602)
1,800,000 31,900 East China Sea P.R. China
4. Mississippi - Missouri 6,270
(6,420)
3,896
(3,989)
2,980,000 16,200 Gulf of Mexico United States (98.5%), Canada (1.5%)
5. Yenisei - Angara - Selenga 5,550
(4,506)
3,449
(2,800)
2,580,000 19,600 Kara Sea Russia, Mongolia
6. Ob' - Irtysh 5,410* 3,449* 2,990,000 12,800 Gulf of Ob Russia, Kazakhstan, P.R. China
7. Huang He
(Yellow)
4,667
(4,350)
2,900
(2,703)
745,000 2,110 Bohai Sea
(Balhae)
P.R. China
8. Amur
(Heilong)
4,368* 2,714* 1,855,000 11,400 Sea of Okhotsk Russia, PR China, Mongolia
9. Congo
(Zaire)
4,371
(4,670)
2,716
(2,902)
3,680,000 41,800 Atlantic Ocean Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Angola, Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Cameroon, Zambia, Burundi, Rwanda
10. Lena 4,260
(4,400)
2,647
(2,734)
2,490,000 17,100 Laptev Sea Russia
11. Mackenzie - Peace - Finlay 4,241
(5,427)
2,635
(3,372)
12. Niger 4,167
(4,138*)
2,589
(2,571*)
2,090,000 9,570 Gulf of Guinea Nigeria (26.6%), Mali (25.6%), Niger (23.6%), Algeria (7.6%), Guinea (4.5%), Cameroon (4.2%), Burkina Faso (3.9%), Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Chad
13. Mekong 4,023 2,500 810,000 16,000 South China Sea Laos, Thailand, P.R. China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar
14. Paraná
( Río de la Plata)
3,998
(4,700)
2,484
(2,920)
3,100,000 25,700 Atlantic Ocean Brazil (46.7%), Argentina (27.7%), Paraguay (13.5%), Bolivia (8.3%), Uruguay (3.8%)
15. Murray - Darling 3,750
(3,520)
2,330
(2,187)
3,490,000 767 Southern Ocean Australia
16. Volga 3,645* 2,265 1,380,000 8,080 Caspian Sea Russia (99.8%), Kazakhstan (minor), Belarus (minor)
17. Shatt al-Arab / Arvandrud - Euphrates 3,596
(2,992)
2,234
(1,859)
884,000 856 Persian Gulf Iraq (40.5%), Turkey (24.8%), Iran (19.7%), Syria (14.7%)
18. Purus 3,379 (2,948) (3,210) 2,100 (1,832) (1,995) Amazon Brazil, Peru
19. Madeira - Mamoré 3,239 2,013 Amazon Brazil, Bolivia, Peru
20. Yukon 3,184 1,978 850,000 6,210 Bering Sea USA (59.8%), Canada (40.2%)
21. Indus
(Sindhu)
3,180 1,976 960,000 7,160 Arabian Sea Pakistan, India, PR China, disputed territory (Kashmir), Afghanistan (6.3%)
22. São Francisco 3,180*
(2,900)
1,976*
(1,802)
610,000 3,300 Atlantic Ocean Brazil
23. Syr Darya 3,078 1,913 100,000   Aral Sea Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan
24. Salween
(Salwin) (Nù Jiāng)
3,060 1,901 324,000   Andaman Sea P.R. China (52.4%), Myanmar (43.9%), Thailand (3.7%)
25. Saint Lawrence - Niagara- Detroit- Saint Clair- Saint Marys- Saint Louis 3,058 1,900 1,030,000 10,100 Gulf of Saint Lawrence Canada (52.1%), USA (47.9%)
26. Rio Grande 3,057
(2,896)
1,900
(1,799)
570,000 82 Gulf of Mexico USA (52.1%), Mexico (47.9%)
27. Lower Tunguska 2,989 1,857 3,600 Yenisei Russia
28. Brahmaputra 2,948* 1,832* 1,730,000 43,900 Bay of Bengal India (58.0%), P.R. China (19.7%), Nepal (9.0%), Bangladesh (6.6%), Disputed India/P.R. China (4.2%), Bhutan (2.4%)
29. Danube 2,850* 1,771* 817,000 7,130 Black Sea Romania (28.9%), Hungary (11.7%), Austria (10.3%), Serbia (10.3%), Germany (7.5%), Slovakia (5.8%), Bulgaria (5.2%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (4.8%), Croatia (4.5%), Ukraine (3.8%), Czech Republic (2.6%), Slovenia (2.2%), Moldova (1.7%), Switzerland (0.32%), Italy (0.15%), Poland (0.09%), Albania (0.03%)
30. Tocantins 2,699 1,677 1,400,000   Atlantic Ocean, Amazon Brazil
31. Zambezi
(Zambesi)
2,693* 1,673* 1,330,000 4,880 Mozambique Channel Zambia (41.6%), Angola (18.4%), Zimbabwe (15.6%), Mozambique (11.8%), Malawi (8.0%), Tanzania (2.0%), Namibia, Botswana
32. Vilyuy 2,650 1,647 Lena Russia
33. Araguaia 2,627 1,632     Tocantins Brazil
34. Amu Darya 2,620 1,628 Aral Sea Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan
35. Japurá
(Rio Yapurá)
2,615* 1,625*     Amazon Brazil, Colombia
36. Nelson - Saskatchewan 2,570 1,597 1,093,000 2,575 Hudson Bay Canada, USA
37. Paraguay
(Rio Paraguay)
2,549 1,584   4,300 Paraná Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina
38. Kolyma 2,513 1,562 East Siberian Sea Russia
39. Ganges 2,510 1,560 14,270 Brahmaputra, Bay of Bengal India, Bangladesh, Nepal
40. Pilcomayo 2,500 1,553 Paraguay Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia
41. Upper Ob 2,490 1,547 Ob Russia
42. Ishim 2,450 1,522 Irtysh Kazakhstan, Russia
42. Juruá 2,410 1,498 Amazon Peru, Brazil
43. Ural 2,428 1,509 237,000 475 Caspian Sea Russia, Kazakhstan
44. Arkansas 2,348 1,459 505,000
(435,122)
Mississippi United States
45. Ubangi - Uele 2,300 1,429 Congo Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic
46. Olenyok 2,292 1,424 Laptev Sea Russia
47. Dnieper 2,287 1,421 516,300 1,670 Black Sea Russia, Belarus, Ukraine
48. Aldan 2,273 1,412 Lena Russia
49. Negro 2,250 1,450 Amazon Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia
50. Columbia 2,250 (1,953) 1,450 (1,214) Pacific Ocean United States, Canada
51. Colorado 2,333 1,450 390,000 1,200 Gulf of California United States, Mexico
52. Pearl - Xi Jiang
(West) (Si Kang)
2,200 1,376 437,000 13,600 South China Sea P.R. China (98.5%), Vietnam (1.5%)
53. Red 2,188 1,360 Mississippi United States
54. Ayeyarwady River 2,170 1,348 411,000 13,000 Andaman Sea Myanmar
55. Kasai 2,153 1,338 Congo Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo
56. Ohio - Allegheny 2,102 1,306 490,603   Mississippi United States
57. Orinoco 2,101 1,306 41,000 30,000 Atlantic Ocean Venezuela, Colombia
58. Tarim 2,100 1,305 Lop Nur People's Republic of China
59. Xingu 2,100 1,305 Amazon Brazil
60. Orange 2,092 1,300     Atlantic Ocean South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho
61. Northern Salado 2,010 1,249 Paraná Argentina
62. Vitim 1,978 1,229 Lena Russia
63. Tigris 1,950 1,212 Shatt al-Arab Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran
64. Songhua 1,927 1,197 Amur People's Republic of China
65. Tapajós 1,900 1,181 Amazon Brazil
66. Don 1,870 1,162 Sea of Azov Russia
67. Stony Tunguska 1,865 1,159 Yenisei Russia
68. Pechora 1,809 1,124 Barents Sea Russia
69. Kama 1,805 1,122 507,000 Volga Russia
70. Limpopo 1,800 1,118 Indian Ocean Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana
71. Guaporé 1,749 1,087 Mamoré Brazil, Bolivia
72. Indigirka 1,726 1,072 East Siberian Sea Russia
73. Snake 1,670 1,038 Columbia United States
74. Senegal 1,641 1,020 Atlantic Ocean Senegal, Mali, Mauritania
75. Uruguay 1,610 1,000 Atlantic Ocean Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil
76. Blue Nile 1,600 994 Nile Ethiopia, Sudan
76. Churchill 1,600 994 Hudson Bay Canada
76. Khatanga 1,600 994 Laptev Sea Russia
76. Okavango 1,600 994 Okavango Delta Namibia, Angola, Botswana
76. Volta 1,600 994 Gulf of Guinea Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, Côte d'Ivoire, Benin
81. Beni 1,599 994 Madeira Bolivia
82. Platte 1,594 990 Missouri United States
83. Tobol 1,591 989 Irtysh Kazakhstan, Russia
84. Jubba - Shebelle 1,580* 982* Indian Ocean Ethiopia, Somalia
85. Içá
(Putumayo)
1,575 979 Amazon Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador
85. Magdalena 1,550 963 Caribbean Sea Colombia
87. Han 1,532 952 Yangtze People's Republic of China
88. Lomami 1,500 932 Congo Democratic Republic of the Congo
88. Oka 1,500 932 Volga Russia
90. Pecos 1,490 926 Rio Grande United States
91. Upper Yenisei 1,480 920 Yenisei Russia, Mongolia
92. Godavari 1,465 910 Bay of Bengal India
93. Colorado 1,438 894 Gulf of Mexico United States
94. Río Grande (Guapay) 1,438 894 Ichilo Bolivia
95. Belaya 1,420 882 Kama Russia
96. Cooper - Barcoo 1,420 880 Lake Eyre Australia
97. Marañón 1,415 879 Amazon Peru
98. Dniester 1,411 (1,352) 877 (840) Black Sea Ukraine, Moldova
99. Benue 1,400 870 Niger Cameroon, Nigeria
99. Ili 1,400 870 Lake Balkhash People's Republic of China, Kazakhstan
99. Warburton - Georgina 1,400 870 Lake Eyre Australia
102. Yamuna 1,376 855 Ganges India
103. Sutlej 1,370 851 Chenab India, Pakistan
103. Vyatka 1,370 851 Kama Russia
105. Fraser 1,368 850 Pacific Ocean Canada
106. Kura 1,364 848 Caspian Sea Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, Iran
107. Grande 1,360 845 Paraná Brazil
108. Brazos 1,352 840 Gulf of Mexico United States
109. Liao 1,345 836 Bohai Sea People's Republic of China
110. Yalong 1,323 822 Yangtze People's Republic of China
111. Iguaçu 1,320 820 Paraná Brazil, Argentina
111. Olyokma 1,320 820 Lena Russia
111. Rhine 1,320 820 North Sea Germany, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Italy
114. Krishna 1,300 808 Bay of Bengal India
114. Iriri 1,300 808 Xingu Brazil
116. Narmada 1,289 801 Arabian Sea India
117. Ottawa 1,271 790 Saint Lawrence Canada
118. Zeya 1,242 772 Amur Russia
119. Juruena 1,240 771 Tapajós Brazil
120. Upper Mississippi 1,236 768 Mississippi United States
121. Athabasca 1,231 765 Mackenzie Canada
122. Canadian 1,223 760 Arkansas United States
124. Vaal 1,210 752 Orange South Africa
125. Shire 1,200 746 Zambezi Mozambique, Malawi
126. Nen
(Nonni)
1,190 739 Songhua People's Republic of China
127. Green 1,175 730 Colorado United States
128. Milk 1,173 729 Missouri United States, Canada
129. Elbe 1,162* 722* North Sea Germany, Czech Republic
130. Chindwin 1,158 720 Ayeyarwady Myanmar
131. James 1,143 710 Missouri United States
131. Kapuas 1,143 710 South China Sea Indonesia, Malaysia
133. Helmand 1,130 702 Hamun-i-Helmand Afghanistan, Iran
133. Tietê 1,130 702 Paraná Brazil
133. Vychegda 1,130 702 Northern Dvina Russia
137. Sepik 1,126 700 Pacific Ocean Papua New Guinea, Indonesia
138. Cimarron 1,123 698 Arkansas United States
140. Liard 1,115 693 Mackenzie Canada
141. White 1,102 685 Mississippi United States
142. Huallaga 1,100 684 Marañón Peru
143. Gambia 1,094 680 Atlantic Ocean The Gambia, Senegal, Guinea
144. Chenab 1,086 675 Indus India, Pakistan
145. Yellowstone 1,080 671 Missouri United States
146. Donets 1,078 (1,053) 670 (654) Don Ukraine, Russia
147. Bermejo 1,050 652 Paraguay Argentina, Bolivia
147. Fly 1,050 652 Gulf of Papua Papua New Guinea, Indonesia
147. Guaviare 1,050 652 Orinoco Colombia
147. Kuskokwim 1,050 652 Bering Sea United States
151. Tennessee 1,049 652 Ohio United States
152. Daugava 1,020 634 Gulf of Riga Latvia, Belarus, Russia
153. Gila 1,015 631 Colorado United States
154. Vistula 1,014 630 Baltic Sea Poland
155. Loire 1,012 629 Atlantic Ocean France
156. Essequibo 1,010 628 Atlantic Ocean Guyana
156. Khoper 1,010 628 Don Russia
158. Tagus 1,006 625 Atlantic Ocean Spain, Portugal
159. Colorado 1,000 620 Atlantic Ocean Argentina

Longest rivers that have probably existed in the past

Nile

The Virunga Volcanoes started to form in the Miocene period, blocking the African Rift Valley. Before that, the water which now accumulates in Lake Tanganyika drained northwards into the Albert Nile, which would make the Nile somewhere around 1500 km = 900 miles longer, with its longest headwater in Zambia.

If this blockage did not happen until after the Messinian salinity crisis started, add a hundred miles or more for the added northern extension of the Nile flowing across the dry bed of the Mediterranean Sea during the Messinian salinity crisis.

Amazon-Congo

The Amazon basin formerly drained westwards into the Pacific Ocean, until the Andes rose and reversed the drainage.

The Congo basin is completely surrounded by high land, except for its long narrow exit valley past Kinshasa, including waterfalls around Manyanga. That gives the impression that most of the Congo basin was formerly on a much higher land level and that it was rejuvenated by much of its lower course being removed.

In Permian and early Triassic times Africa and South America were close against each other with no sea between (see continental drift and plate tectonics), and the Congo probably drained into the Amazon basin and eventually into the Pacific. Including part of its course that was completely lost when the South Atlantic opened, its total course may have been anything up to approximately 12000 km = 7200 miles long.