How Deep is the Jordan River?

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Updated: May 30, 2023
© iStock.com/SOBenson
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The Jordan River is found in the Middle East and has a total length of over 223 miles (360 km). It flows through the Sea of Galilee and towards the Dead Sea. The river passes through Jordan, Palestine’s West Bank, southwestern Syria, and Israel.

Taking into account its religious significance and the fact that it’s located at the border between four countries, it’s essential to know more about the river’s depth. Is it swimmable? Is it deep enough to have strong currents?

The Jordan River is 50 to 200 feet (15-60 meters) deep and sits in a valley cut by the river itself. The valley has a width between 1,300 and 10,000 feet (400-3,000 meters). The river is known for having the lowest elevation worldwide.

Let’s now find more details about the mentioned aspects – total length, depth, and elevation.

How did the Jordan River form?

The Jordan River starts at the base of Mount Hermon and has three principal water sources.

©iStock.com/Christopher-Sprake

The Jordan River starts at the base of Mount Hermon and has three principal water sources. The first two are the Hasbani River (Lebanon) and the Banias River (Syria), and they meet at the border of their respective countries. The third source is the Dan River, which flows in Israel.

The Jordan River formed at the confluence of the three rivers in the Hula Valley. The plain the valley sits on used to be a marshland and a lake before it was partially drained in the 1950s. That part of the valley is now used as agricultural land, which makes use of the river’s waters.

Fueled by the power of erosion, the river has cut through the basaltic barrier at the end of the Hula Valley and formed a gorge. This process shaped the Jordan River as we know it today.

How long is the Jordan River?

We mentioned that the river has a total length of over 223 miles (360 km). However, Wikipedia states it is only 156 miles (251 km) long. So, who do we trust? Well, both pieces of information are correct – they just consider different aspects.

The total length of the Jordan River is given by the course of the water flow from the source to the Dead Sea. The river has a meandering course. This means that it has a winding course with many small turns that increase its total length exponentially.

On the other hand, the distance from the source of the Jordan River to the Dead Sea is around 124 miles (200 km). As a result, some sources average the two distances (more or less).

Is the Jordan River below sea level?

The Jordan River historically stands 689 feet below sea level near its southern tip at Degania Dam.

©iStock.com/dnaveh

The Jordan River historically stands 689 feet (210 meters) below sea level near its southern tip at Degania Dam. The Jordan Valley, the last section of the river, which is 75 miles (120 km) long, features a gradual drop of another 210 meters before flowing into the Dead Sea. The latter stands 1384 feet (422 meters) below sea level. The surface of the Dead Sea is the lowest land point worldwide.

We said historically because the Jordan River gets lower below sea level every decade. According to research, it drops between 6.5 and 13 feet (2 and 4 meters) per year.

How deep is the Jordan River?

The Jordan River is between 50 and 200 feet deep.

©iStock.com/SOBenson

Various sources point to various data and numbers. The Jordan River is between 50 and 200 feet (15 – 60 meters) deep. Other sources, however, state that the river’s deepest point is only around 17 feet (5.1 meters). Why are there two different values for this aspect?

The Jordan River is 50 to 200 feet (15 – 60 meters) deep when measured in its valley that the river has cut into the plain. It is only around 17 feet (5.1 meters) deep when measured along its flowing course. The river is, at its widest, 60 feet (18.2 meters), whereas its valley can be as wide as 10,000 feet (3,000 meters).

The river is indeed known as deep and wide but from a historical standpoint. On average, the Jordan River is 33 feet (10 meters) wide and 6.5 feet (2 meters) deep. You can even stand in some parts – thus, some people today call it a creek. 

In the past, the Jordan River had a water flow of 1.3 billion cubic meters per year. By 2010, the water flow had dropped to a mere 20 – 30 million cubic meters per year. This was caused mainly by the state of Israel, which began diverting water from the Sea of Galilee in 1964 via a pumping station and then via an artificial channel (which affected one of the Jordan River’s main tributaries, the Yarmouk Channel). As a result, the river’s flow has been significantly reduced, which, in turn, has affected its depth as well. 

The Dead Sea is also constantly affected by the exploitation of the Jordan River and its tributaries – it is shrinking at an alarming rate.

What should you know about the Jordan River and its depth?

The Jordan River is often characterized as shallow overall.

©iStock.com/RobertHoetink

Multiple variables influence the ecosystem and characteristics of the Jordan River. Looking at this graph, we can see the river’s evolution in the past 50 years and how it became the river with the lowest elevation worldwide. In a photo from the same paper, you can clearly see how the Jordan River has been affected by exploitation. While the river’s stream mostly cuts through the banks and the riverbed, eroding them and causing the decrease in altitude (below sea level) mentioned above, the river is also slowly losing depth.

The Jordan River is often characterized as shallow overall. It has high (from January to March) and low-water (end of summer to the beginning of autumn) periods. Still, these don’t have a significant effect on its depth.

How deep was the Jordan River?

One common question tries to discover how deep – and wide the Jordan River was when the Israelites crossed it. This wonderful analysis, which involves clues such as the season when the river was crossed and whether its banks were overflowing or not, gives us some hints.

The Israelites crossed the river during a flood stage. It is believed that at the time and taking into account historical measurements, the Jordan River was over 100 feet (30 meters) wide and more than 10 feet (3 meters) deep.

Where Is the Jordan River Located on a Map?

The Jordan River is in the Middle East, passing through Jordan, Israel, Syria, and Palestine. It is one of the many bodies of water mentioned in the Bible, as it flows through the Sea of Galilee and towards the Dead Sea.


The Featured Image

Jordan River in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Several segments of the Golden Spoke Trail pass near rivers in Utah.
© iStock.com/SOBenson

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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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