The Jordan River is known for its twists and turns and its historical importance. The Jordan River, based in the Jordan Valley, flows through various terrains, has been the site of political tensions, and is a major migratory route for millions of birds each year. The Bible says that the Israelites crossed the Jordan River to escape slavery. This statement begs the question: If the Israelites were able to cross the Jordan River, how wide is the Jordan River at its widest point?
The Widest Point Of The Jordan River
The widest point of the Jordan River is roughly 15 miles in length. This point is in an area of terraces known as the Ghawr.
The Origin Of The Jordan River
The source of the Jordan River starts at Mount Hermon, which is on the border of Syria and Lebanon. The Jordan River has three primary sources, which are the Hasbani River, the Baniyas River, and the Dan River. These three rivers flow from Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, respectively. Finally, these three rivers join the Hula Valley in northern Israel.
The Course Of The Jordan River
The Jordan River is 223 miles long but covers a distance shorter than this. Because it meanders and twists between its source and the Dead Sea, in reality, it only covers a distance of 123 miles.
Every river has a source, and the Jordan River starts at Mount Hermon and then flows through northern Israel into the Sea of Galilee. From there, it exits the Sea of Galilee and divides Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Finally, it flows through Jordan’s floodplain, known as the Zur. After the Jordan River completes its route through the Zur, it forms a delta and empties into the Dead Sea.
The Tributaries Of The Jordan River
The Jordan River’s three main tributaries are the Hasbani River, the Baniyas River, and the Dan River. However, the Jordan River has other essential tributaries, which are:
- The Ayoun River – originates in Lebanon.
- The Yarmouk River – forms near the Golan Heights.
- The Harod River – joins the Jordan River in the Sea of Galilee.
- The Yabis River – also joins the Jordan River in the Sea of Galilee.
Exploring The Jordan Valley
The Jordan Valley is a vital component of the East African Rift System which extends from Turkey into the Red Sea and eventually into eastern Africa. As the Jordan Valley narrows from its original 6-mile width, it reaches the Sea of Galilee.
In the southern part of the valley, the land that surrounds the Jordan Valley can be up to 3,000 feet higher than the actual river. Due to this height, the surrounding walls are steep and rocky.
The Jordan River has formed a gorge through a basaltic barrier in the southern part of the Jordan Valley. After this gorge, the river enters the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This lake controls the river’s flow rate. After the Jordan River exits the Sea of Galilee, it enters a plain known as the Ghawr.
The Ghawr is full of rocky towers and pinnacles that form ravines that look similar to a lunar landscape. Moreover, the Jordan Valley has a floodplain known as the Zur, which is covered in irrigated fields. Because the Zur floods often, the government has built dams along the Jordan River to control this flooding. Eventually, the Jordan Valley ends in a vast delta.
The History Of The Jordan River
Before being known as the Jordan River, it was known as the “Aulon.” The Greeks gave the river this name but then changed it to “Nahr Al Sharieat,” meaning “Watering Place” in Arabic. The Jordan River is important in many religions and is said to be where Jesus Christ was baptized. According to the Bible, the Israelites dangerously crossed the Jordan River as they tried to escape from being slaves in Egypt.
The Jordan River has also been a place of exploration. Famous explorers like Christopher Costigan, John MacGregor, William Francis Lynch, and Thomas Howard Molyneux explored the river extensively during the 1800s.
The waters of the Jordan River have been highly contested for many years, causing tensions between Israel, Jordan, and Syria. Due to these tensions and poor regulation along the river, the water quality of the river has declined. In addition, there has been an unregulated discharge of sewage into the river, agricultural waste, and saline springs.
An Important Migratory Route
Another critical element is that the Jordan Valley is one of the largest and main migration routes for over 500 million birds. The Jordan Valley has an Eastern Route, a Western Route, and the Southern-Eilat Mountains Route.
These routes allow 500 million birds, spanning 200 species, to fly over Israel biannually. Also, the birds use the Jordan Valley to travel from Africa to different regions across Asia.
The Jordan Valley’s northern part is home to two adjacent and complementary Important Bird Areas (IBAs). BirdLife International recognizes these IBAs, which have the political boundary of the Jordan River, which separates them. The North Ghor, which is the Jordanian IBA, lies to the east and is over 6,000 hectares in size. The Israeli IBA is located to the west and is over 7,000 hectares in size.
The different IBAs have bird populations categorized as resident, winter, and passage migrant birds. The other species of birds that use the Jordan Valley as a migratory route are:
- Black Francolins
- Marbled Teals
- Black and White Storks
- Black-Crowned Night Herons
- Collared and Black-Winged Pratincoles
- Egyptian Vultures
- European Honey-Buzzards
- Levant Sparrowhawks
- Dead Sea Sparrows
Where Is The Jordan River Located On A Map?
The Jordan River, alternatively referred to as Nahr Al-Sharieat, is a river spanning 251 kilometers in length, flowing from north to south through the Middle East, passing through the Sea of Galilee and eventually reaching the Dead Sea, with the river bordered by Jordan and the Golan Heights to the east, and the West Bank and Israel to the west.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Christopher-Sprake
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