From the world’s longest waterways to our streams, brooks and underground springs, rivers flow all around our incredible planet. Learn all about them with our fascinating facts about rivers!

Rivers only hold a small amount of the Earth’s water, but they have always been vital to human life, carrying freshwater to people and animals all over the world. And they’re super-powerful forces of nature, too – carving out deep valleys and gorges, and shaping the land as they flow to the ocean! Let’s dive in to find out more…


15 facts about rivers

1) The Nile River is widely accepted as the world’s longest river. Found in north Africa, it flows through 11 different countries and stretches a whopping 6,695km – that’s as long as 65,000 football pitches!

2) Most scientists agree that the Amazon River comes in a close second, winding a huge 6,840km through the mountains and rainforests of South America!

Save our rainforests

3) That’s a very long distance, wouldn’t you agree? Well, believe it or not, in 2007 a man named Martin Strel swam the entire length of the Amazon river! To complete his amazing jungle journey, Martin swam ten hours a day for 66 days!

4) But what about the world’s deepest river? That’s the Congo River in Central Africa. Whilst its true depth remains a mystery, scientists believe the waters run at least 230m deep in parts – deep enough to submerge London’s famous clocktower, known as Big Ben, 2.5 times on top of each other!

5) As rivers flow their course across the land, they form lots of fascinating geographic features, such as amazing mountain valleys, canyons, lakes and, of course, wonderful waterfalls!

6) Some record-breaking waterfalls formed by our planet’s rivers include…

Angel Falls, Venezuela – the world’s highest waterfall at a staggering 979m tall!

Khone Falls, Laos – the widest waterfall, measuring an incredible 10,783m!

Inga Falls, Democratic Republic of the Congo – the world’s largest waterfall, if we’re talking about the amount of water. Every second, 25,768 cubic metres plunges down the fall – that’s more than ten Olympic swimming pools!

7) Rivers can be all kinds of colours – not just blue, clear or muddy brown as you might expect! In ‘blackwater rivers’, found in swamps and wetlands, the waters look like strong black tea. And in Colombia, the aquatic plants of Caño Cristales – known as the ‘River of Five Colours‘ – make the waters flow with bright blue, red, black, yellow and green!

8) Not all rivers flow overland – ‘subterranean rivers‘ run secretly beneath the surface! This is sometimes because of human engineering. Ever heard of London’s ‘lost rivers‘? These are streams of the River Thames and River Lea that were built over as the city grew.

9) Subterranean rivers can also exist naturally. In the Philippines for example, the Puerto Princesa Underground River flows beneath a mountain for five miles, before finally emptying into the South China Sea. Cool, eh?

10) It’s not just rivers themselves which are fascinating – it’s the wonderful wildlife that lives in them, too! Rivers provide a home for all kinds of creatures, including insects, amphibians, birds, reptiles, mammals and over 10,000 species of fish!

11) Some of the most fascinating river creatures include Amazon river dolphins (which have pink skin!), electric eels (which stun prey and predators with powerful electric shocks!), freshwater stingrays (which can grow to an enormous 5 metres!) and freshwater turtles, which have been around for 200 million years!

12) Rivers and lakes are a vital source of freshwater for life on Earth. But did you know they hold less than 1% of the world’s water? Most (over 99%, in fact) is in the salty ocean or frozen in our polar ice caps. That’s why it’s super important that we protect our rivers and look after the freshwater our planet provides.

13) Sadly, our rivers and waterways are being polluted by chemicals, sewage and household waste, which can cause serious harm to animals – and humans, too. In fact, an estimated 300-400 million tonnes of waste is thought to pollute our rivers and seas every year!

14) The good news is that people around the world are working hard to keep our rivers and fresh water supplies clean and safe. And you can help, too! Be sure to reuse and recycle whenever you can, and bin rubbish responsibly! And you can help save water, too – be sure to turn off the tap when brushing your teeth, and why not opt for a short shower over a long bath?

15) Did you know there’s a day dedicated to our planet’s wonderful waterways? Every September, millions of people from more than 70 countries celebrate World Rivers Day. This global event raises awareness of the importance of rivers and how we can best protect them for years to come!


Do you feel inspired by our facts about rivers? Let us know by leaving a comment, below!




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  • peace makers

    well done national Geographic your team has helped the environment to stay safe.

  • nathaniel

    the facts are so cool

  • Paari

    It helped me with my speech, thanks!

  • Esperanza

    SOOO interesting and really amazing.

  • Atharva

    It was Helpful for my project,thnx.

  • Artomas


  • Wow

  • Jay

  • A

  • Milena

    This helps me so much

  • Thank you

  • Matilda


  • William Hale-Sutton

    really good facts love it

  • candycane246

  • bob

  • terrier


  • shrimp

  • l christine

  • niceeee

    That was soooo fun

  • Cool!

  • Giraffee

    This was very helpful!

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