The 5 Largest Rivers in the World by Volume of Flow

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Rivers are a great place to swim, boat and fish. But they’re also an integral part of what makes life work on Earth. Without rivers, much of the world’s population–human, animal and insect–would die. Rivers supply water and food. They are part of the water cycle and carry nutrients to help create fertile lands. Humans have harnessed the power of rivers to create energy, and like many other areas of human interference, it sometimes puts the river and those who rely on it for their livelihoods at risk.

5 Yenisey River

The Yenisey, also referred to as Yenisei River, starts in Mongolia and flows through the brutal cold of Siberia to the Kara Sea. The Yenisey River has an annual volume discharge flow of 620,000 cubic meters or 22 million cubic feet. Like most rivers around the world, humans have exploited the river to improve their livelihoods. However, swimming isn’t recommended in the Yenisey, as the industrialization of the region has made it one of the most polluted rivers draining into the Arctic. And the region is cold, with some areas of river basin reaching minus 140 Fahrenheit.

4 Mekong River

“Large Rivers: Geomorphology and Management” lists the Mekong as the fourth largest river for annual volume flow with 667,000 cubic meters — 25 million cubic feet. It ranks 12th in the world and seventh in Asia in length. The Mekong River starts in the Tibetian Plateau and flows through six countries — China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam — all of which vie for the food and power the river provides. It provides the livelihood for 60 million people, leading to conflict between countries that want to build dams, which affects the river downstream. To help protect and control how the river is used, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam created the Mekong River Commission, but it hasn’t completely eliminated inter-country fighting over the use of the river.

3 Chang Jiang (Yangtze) River

The Chang Jiang, more commonly known in the Western world as the Yangtze River, is the longest river in China and Asia, and the world’s third-largest in length and volume discharge at 870,000 cubic meters or 30 million cubic feet per year. This likely explains the river’s name, which in English translates to “long river.” The Chang Jiang has the distinction of having the world’s largest dam and hydroelectric power station.

2 Congo River

Located in central Africa, the Congo River is the sixth longest river, but the second in volume discharge at 1.2 million cubic meters or 42 million cubic feet. Once known as Zaire River, the Congo River takes first place as the deepest river in the world, with spots as deep as 721 feet. Taking a trip from the start to end, you would travel more than 2,900 miles and cross the equator twice. Central Africa has little need for trains or Interstates, because the Congo is able to serve as the main source of transportation.

1 Amazon River

Nearly all resources, including the book “Large Rivers: Geomorphology and Management,” list the Amazon River as having the greatest volume of flow with 6.9 million cubic meters or a whopping 244 million cubic feet in annual volume discharge. Its flow is so powerful, no bridges can be built to span it, and it doesn’t mix with the Atlantic salt water until it has flowed 125 miles out to sea. But the Amazon isn’t content to be first in volume of flow. It has taken on the Nile to win the right to be the longest river, as well. In 2007, Brazilian scientists concluded that the Amazon River is 176 miles longer than previously reported, which, if correct, would make it 65 miles longer than the Nile River, and winner of the longest, most voluminous river in the world.
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