The 40 most important rivers of the world

The table below shows the top 40 rivers on Earth by length. You can also reorder the table by name, multi-year average flow or catchment area by clicking on the appropriate column at the top of the table. 

River Length (km) [1] Average discharge (m3/s) [3] Catchment area (km2) [2] Place of Shedding States crossed by the main course (listed from upstream to downstream) Continent Observations
Nile 6690 2633 3340877 Mediteraneean Sea Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, Egypt Africa Nile-Kagera length
Amazon 6275 215000 5941000 Atlantic Ocean Peru, Colombia, Brazil South America The length of Amazon-Uucayali-Apurimac
Mississippi 5970 16800 3244506 Mexico Gulf US North America The length of Mississippi-Missouri
Yangtze 5530 30146 1746195 The East China Sea China Asia
Ob 5300 12889 3054985 The Kara Sea (Obi Gulf) China, Kazakhstan, Russia Asia The length of the ordinary
Yenisey 5039 19499 2518211 The Kara Sea (Yenisey bay) Mongolia, Russia Asia The length of Enisei-Angara-Selenga
Huang He (Yellow River) 4585 2571 963345 The Yellow Sea (Bohai Gulf) China Asia
Mekong 4500 16000 781429 South China Sea China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam Asia
Congo 4370 41200 3689187 Atlantic Ocean The Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola Africa
Amur 4350 11330 2246081 Ohotsk Sea Mongolia, Russia, China Asia The length of the Amur-Kherlen
Lena 4264 18300 2467695 Laptev Sea Russia Asia
Niger 4160 6925 2115246 Gulf of Guinea Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria Africa
Mackenzie 3780 10338 1805885 Beaufort Sea Canada North America The length of Mackenzie-athabasca
Paraná 3700 18290 2639954 Atlantic Ocean Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina South America
Volga 3531 8060 1431107 Caspic Sea Russia Europe
Indus 3180 5533 864452 The Sea of ​​Arabia China, India, Pakistan Asia
St. Lawrence 3057 16800 1055756 Saint Lawrence Gulf Canada, USA North America The lenght of St. Lawrence river with the St. Louis river and the Great Lakes
Brahmaputra 2909 25000 539989 The Bay of Bengal China, India, Bangladesh Asia
São Francisco 2897 2943 634842 Atlantic Ocean Brazil South America
Yukon 2897 6576 838177 The Bering Sea Canada, USA North America
Danube 2860 6500 797335 Black Sea Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine Europe
Rio Grande 2800 160 673199 Mexico Gulf USA, Mexico North America
Euphrates 2760 356 637000 The Persian Gulf Turkey, Syria, Iraq Asia
Zambezi 2660 3424 1373188 Mozambic Channel Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique Africa
Tocantins 2640 11796 769445 Atlantic Ocean (Marajó Gulf), Amazon Delta Brazil South America
Murray 2600 767 1054594 Indian Ocean Australia Australia
Ganges 2597 38129 1004724 The Bay of Bengal India, Bangladesh Asia
Salween 2480 6600 265761 Andaman Sea China, Myanmar, Thailand Asia
Ural 2428 400 211789 Caspic Sea Russia, Kazakhstan Europe/Asia
Nelson 2400 2370 1110603 Hudson Gulf Canada North America The length of Nelson-Saskatchewan-Winipeg
Orinoco 2220 37740 937352 Atlantic Ocean Venezuela, Colombia South America
Dnieper 2201 1670 511695 Black Sea Russia, Belarus, Ukraine Europe
Colorado 2190 640 661274 California Bay USA, Mexico North America
Koyma 2149 3800 657254 East Siberian Sea Russia Asia
Columbia 1950 7500 671064 Pacific Ocean Canada, USA North America
Orange 1860 365 975724 Atlantic Ocean Lesotho, Rep. South Africa, Namibia Africa
Tigris 1855 1214 375000 Shatt al-Arab Turkey, Iraq, Iran Asia
Pechora 1789 4533 316307 The Barents Sea Russia Europe
Magdalena 1530 7200 259619 The Caribbean Sea Colombia South America
Rhein 1326 2900 163646 North Sea Switzerland, Liechtestein, Germany, France, the Netherlands Europe

Theoretical concepts

Discharge is the amount of water flowing in a unit of time. In the case of rivers it is expressed in m3/s. The table above shows the multi-annual average flows near the river mouth. 

The catchment is the area from which a river collects its waters and includes all tributary streams (whose water flows directly or indirectly into the river). It can be described quantitatively by area size, average slope, shape, average altitude, etc.

The river network is the totality of watercourses in a region (river basin, a country or a continent). It can be characterized by: 

  • density (km/km2) - the cumulative length of all watercourses per km2; generally higher in mountainous regions, increasing with fragmentation, i.e. the energy of the relief;
  • length of streams (long or short streams) - this is partly subjective and involves comparing the length of rivers in two different regions, e.g. rivers in the British Isles with those in the lowlands of Eastern Europe;
  • average gradient - higher in mountainous regions and lower in lowland regions; 
  • hydropower potential - refers to the amount of hydropower that can be produced; depends on flow, slope of rivers and relief configuration. generally higher in mountainous regions. 


[1] Atlas Geografic General (1974) Editura Didactică și Pedagogică - Bucharest.

[2] Global Data Runoff Center (GRDC) -