The Congo River is the second-longest river in Africa at roughly 2,920 miles. It is also one of the most distinctive rivers in the world as it is the deepest, with depths plunging to 720 feet. Other fascinating facts are that this river crosses the equator twice, gives life to the Congo rainforest, and flows into the Atlantic Ocean. This vast river is a source of water, transport, and employment for millions of people, so it must be wide enough to accommodate all of them. That brings us to the question, “How wide is the Congo River at its widest point?”
The Widest Point of the Congo River
The widest point of the Congo River is 15 miles. Kinshasa and Brazzaville, two capital cities, flank the Congo at this juncture. Also, the Congo River has three distinct sections: the Upper, Middle, and Lower parts of this massive waterway. As the river flows, it also fluctuates, accounting for its width varying between 3.5 miles and 8 miles.
The Course of the Congo River
As you might expect from a mighty river, the Congo River flows through seven countries. These countries include the Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Cameroon, and Tanzania.
Moreover, the river’s three sections are different in their specific characteristics. Where the Upper Congo is known for its many tributaries and rapids, the Middle Congo has a reputation for having a steady stream. In contrast, the Lower Congo River is known for its many gorges and waterfalls.
The Upper Congo
The start of the Congo River comes from its main tributary, the Lualaba River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As the Congo flows and curves, it passes the equator before reaching the city of Kisangani. However, before arriving at Kisangani, it has some major rapids and transforms into the Middle Congo River.
The Boyoma Falls is a highlight of this location, extending for an impressive distance of 60 miles. Beyond these falls and rapids, the Middle Congo River becomes slow and steady and stretches for almost 1,000 miles. Many people use this area of the river for boat transport.
The Middle Congo
Each section of the Congo River has interesting features. This 1,000-mile area ends in a ‘stand-still’ for about 20 miles, known as the Malebo Pool. The two capital cities flank the Malebo Pool. One is Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo, lying on the northern river bank.
The other is Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, located on the southern river bank. Finally, the Malebo Pool ends in the Livingstone Falls, a stretch of rapids extending over 220 miles. Here is where the Lower Congo River begins the last journey of the vast Congo River.
The Lower Congo
The Lower Congo River is roughly 200 miles and ends in the Atlantic Ocean. This final feature is unique as most large rivers form a river delta before pouring their waters into the ocean. This river section then narrows, causing the flow to speed up. Consequently, the Lower Congo releases 1.25 million cubic feet of water into the Atlantic Ocean every second. Only the Amazon River releases more water into the Atlantic Ocean every second.
The Tributaries of the Congo River
Like many other extensive rivers, the Congo River has several tributaries, with the Lualaba River being its main contributing waterway. The Lualaba River feeds into the Upper Congo River, starting on the Katanga Plateau in the southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Another tributary is the Chambeshi River, which streams into the Lualaba River. However, the Chambeshi River’s source is different, beginning in Zambia and pouring into the Lualaba River, close to the Zambian and Democratic Republic of the Congo borders.
Speaking of the Congo Basin, it is the second most extensive in the world and covers over 1.3 million square miles. Impressively, it comprises tributaries, swamps, and forests and spreads across eight countries. These countries are:
- The Republic of the Congo
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo
- The Central African Republic
The magnificent Congo Basin surrounds the equator and forms the largest tropical rainforest in Africa. This rainforest produces vast amounts of oxygen and has been dubbed the world’s “second lungs.”
Where Is the Congo River Located on a Map?
The Congo River is located in west-central Africa and flows through the Congo rainforest. The river’s sources include the mountains of the East African Rift, and Lake Mweru and Lake Tanganyika, both of which feed the Lualaba River, which supplies water to the Congo beyond Boyoma Falls.
Wildlife in the Congo River
Wildlife in and along the Congo River is fascinating, and you may struggle to find a more diverse group of animals in all of tropical Africa. For example, the Congo River features over 700 different fish species, with 500 being endemic.
Some fish found in the river have adapted and evolved to survive in the muddy waters. Examples of this are certain fish having smaller eyes than you’d expect, while others have no eyes at all. Famous fish in the river include lungfish and black catfish.
Lungfish are known to bury themselves in a cocoon of mucus to survive the dry months. Black catfish live in the dark water of the marshlands and have taken on the color of their surroundings. The river is also home to crocodiles, water snakes, and semiaquatic tortoises.
Aquatic mammals also live in this environment. Some of these mammals are hippopotami, otters, manatees, and monkeys. Uniquely, the manatee, also known as a sea cow, lives entirely in the water and is only found on the Sangha tributary.
Wildlife on the Banks of the Congo River
The Congo River Basin is home to 400 mammals and 1000 species of birds outside of the river itself. Many of these mammals and birds are some of the most famous on the African continent, such as the:
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Fanny Salmon
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