There are several extremes of the natural world. While some have been explored by humans, others have remained largely undiscovered. It’s not uncommon to hear about the deepest, longest, as well as the largest rivers in the world. But only a few people seem to know which is the widest river in the world. Every river on earth is unique; each varying in length, depth, surface area, the volume of water discharged, and even width.
Which river is the widest river in the world — opening up to a whopping 7 miles at a time? Let’s take a look!
What Is a River?
A river is a natural flowing, moving watercourse, commonly freshwater. Usually, a river flows toward an ocean, sea, lake, pond, or even another river. There is no strict rule on how big a flow of water must be to be classified as a river. Rivers can vary in size. Small rivers are sometimes referred to as streams, brooks, or creeks.
How Many Rivers Are There in the World?
The answer to this question is somewhat complicated. Why? Because nobody has actually done the count to know how many rivers exist in the world. But one thing we know is that there are tens of thousands of rivers on Earth! In fact, the United States alone has more than 250,000 rivers, amounting to 3.5 million miles of rivers.
Still, there are some rivers long and wide enough to be recognized as “major rivers”; they have large volumes of water (over 620 miles) flowing through them every day. There are about 165 major rivers in the world. They have numerous tributaries and provide fresh water to billions of people across several countries. On a similar note, there are thousands of smaller rivers. But as we said earlier, the exact number of small and large rivers in the world is difficult to determine. Wikipedia published a list of 159 longest rivers on earth, with each river system at or exceeding over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles).
What Is the Widest River in the World?
Unlike the title of longest river in the world, there is little debate when it comes to the widest river in the world. Not only is the Amazon River one of the longest rivers in the world, the Guinness Book of World Records currently lists it as the widest river in the world — measuring 11 kilometers (7 miles) at its widest point.
Extreme Science says the Amazon is about 6.8 miles (11 kilometers) wide at its widest points during the dry season. While in the rainy season, it opens up wider to more than triple its width to 24.8 miles (40 kilometers). Likewise in terms of surface area, the Amazon takes the lead. It covers 42,471 square miles (110,000 square kilometers) during the dry season. This statistic explodes during the wet season to some 350,000 sq km (135,000 sq miles). To make things clearer: the Amazon is approximately the land area of Cuba during the dry season and roughly the size of Germany during wet seasons!
What About Rio de la Plata?
Some people argue that the Rio de la Plata should take the title for widest river in the world. It is nearly 140 miles wide at its “estuary,” the point where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Such rivers that flow out to sea in tidal regions tend to form wide funnel-like mouths referred to as estuaries — La Plata is an example of such a river. The largest estuary in the world is found at the mouth of the St. Lawrence river, draining the Great Lakes into the Atlantic Ocean. At 90 miles wide and 744 miles long, the estuary of the St. Lawrence river simply dwarfs anything any river can ever reach. So, since estuaries aren’t technically rivers, it’s only right not to put them into consideration in this article.
Where Does the Amazon River Start and End?
A 2014 study published in the journal Area found the Amazon’s source to be the headwaters of the Mantaro River in Peru. Before this study, the headwaters of the Apurimac River was considered the most distant source of the Amazon for decades (but this has been disputed). The Amazon River empties into its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean, on the northeastern coast of Brazil.
Where Is the Amazon River Located on a Map?
The Amazon River is situated in the northern part of South America and flows west to east through Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Brazil. Around two-thirds of the river’s main stream is within Brazil and much of it is in the Amazon Rainforest. The Amazon has the world’s biggest watershed, which covers approximately 40% of South America.
What Is the Longest River in the World?
There has for long been controversy about which river holds the “world’s longest river” title between the two natural giants: the Amazon River or the Nile River. The dispute arises from the different opinions on the source of the Amazon. Some studies released in recent years have contended that the adjoining Para estuary and tidal canal be added to the length of the Amazon River, and thus suggest it is longer than the Nile River. But despite these claims, most geographers, including the Guinness World Records, still agree that the Nile River holds the title of the longest river in the world.
The Nile River, at 4,160 miles (6,695km) long is also known as ‘the father of African rivers’ because it is the longest river in Africa – and the world at large. Starting its journey from its source in Lake Victoria in east-central Africa, the Nile River flows north through 11 countries from Central to Northeast Africa into the Mediterranean Sea at a rate of 2,800 cubic meters per second. The Amazon River, therefore, is the widely accepted second-longest river in the world with a length of 6,400 km (3,980 miles).
What Is the Largest River in the World?
The Amazon River is no doubt the largest river by discharge volume of water in the world. It is unquestionably the largest river in terms of volume of water flow and the area of its basin, with an average discharge per second of about 7,600,000 cubic ft to 8,100,000 cubic ft (which is approximately 1,581 cubic miles to 1,820 cubic miles per year) — greater than the average discharge of the next seven largest rivers (as well as the next seven widest rivers) combined. The Amazon flows through several countries including Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Guyana, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador.
Covering a major part of South America, the Amazon has the largest drainage system in the world –totaling about 350,000 square kilometers (135,135 square miles). The river supplies 20% of all the freshwater that drains into oceans on Earth.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Curioso.Photography/Shutterstock.com
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