If you know a lot about Christianity and Judaism, you have likely heard about the Jordan River. It is also known as the Yardein River. The Jordan River plays a major role in more than one Biblical story. It has also changed quite a bit over time due to human influences in the area.
Water from the Jordan River, located in the Middle East, is used for various purposes. These include irrigation of crops, baptisms, and general domestic use.
It can be difficult to figure out where a river starts! Rivers flow in one direction, and it can be difficult to find out exactly where the water comes from. Often, rivers start with the convergence of smaller streams. The Jordan River is one such case.
So, where does the Jordan River start? We’re going to dive in right now to see where it starts, flows, and ends!
Where does the Jordan River start?
The Jordan River starts in Mount Hermon, which is the northernmost point in Israel. It starts out as snow that melts and sinks into the mountain. Deep underneath the surface of the land, the snow is the start of subterranean waterways. These end up bursting out of the ground into springs at three major locations at the foot of this mountain range in northwestern Lebanon.
All three of these locations are considered to be wonderful scenic sites for hikers and tourists. One of these springs gives rise to the Cherman (Banias) River, one to the Dan River, and one to the Snir (Hasbani) River.
All three of these rivers flow down to the Chula Valley. Here, they end up being absorbed and flow into one river. Slightly south (downstream) of here, the Iyyon Stream from southern Lebanon flows into the river as well. And this is the start of the Jordan River!
What countries does the Jordan River flow through?
The Jordan River has banks in five different countries. Mount Hermon is located on the border between Lebanon and Syria. From there, the river flows southward through Northern Israel. After all the smaller rivers converge, the Jordan River makes a rapid 47-mile drop to what was once Lake Hula. The now significantly diminished Lake Hula is located slightly above sea level.
After leaving the site of Lake Hula, the Jordan River makes an even steeper drop of 16 miles. After this, the river flows into the northern end of Lake Tiberias. People also know this lake as the Sea of Galilee. At this point, the river deposits a lot of the silt it is carrying within this lake.
After exiting Lake Tiberias at the Degania Dam (located at the southern tip of the lake), the Jordan River continues to flow southward. Once it leaves the lake, it is almost 690 feet below sea level. After Lake Tiberias, the Jordan River runs for another 75 miles in what people call the Jordan Valley. Israel and the West Bank are to the west of this valley, and Jordan to the east.
The Jordan River drops an additional 700 feet during this southern part of the course. Additionally, the river is fed by two major tributaries that come from the east during this last part. These would be the Yarmouk River and the Zarqa River.
The Jordan River is 156 miles, or 251 kilometers, long. Moving along inside a structural depression, it has the lowest elevation of the world’s rivers.
The Jordan River has five riparians – Jordan, Israel, the West Bank of Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon. The water of the Jordan River has been central in many political conflicts between the countries on which it has banks.
Where does the Jordan River end?
After leaving Lake Tiberias, dropping even further below sea level, and meandering some more, the Jordan River ends up in the Dead Sea. Right as it dumps into the Dead Sea, the Jordan River is about 1,385 feet below sea level.
The Dead Sea is considered a terminal lake, meaning it doesn’t allow outflow to other external bodies of water. It receives freshwater from rivers and streams, including the Jordan River, and it gets rid of water via evaporation. This is how it maintains a somewhat consistent size.
What is the significance of the Jordan River?
All the riparians of the Jordan River have used it as a major water source.
Until shortly after 2000, the water of the Jordan River had been Israel’s largest water resource. It has since been replaced by desalinated water from the Mediterranean Sea. Israel completed the National Water Carrier in 1964; this diverts the water to the southern desert and coastal plains of Israel.
As part of a 1994 peace treaty with Israel, Jordan is supposed to receive 50 million cubic meters of water from the river. The National Water Carrier caused the flow of the Jordan River to drop quite a bit. This water for Jordan is supposed to help compensate for this loss.
In addition to this, the Jordan River has an immense religious significance. The Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, and it is also where Jesus of Nazareth was baptized. Since then, the heirs of many Christian royal houses have been baptized using this water.
How has the Jordan River changed over time?
There has been a significant reduction in water flow in the Jordan River. It once flowed at a rate of 1.3 billion cubic meters every year. As of 2010, the flow has been reduced to about 2% of its original rate. Only 20 to 30 million cubic meters of water flow into the Dead Sea per year from the Jordan River. Some would now call it a creek rather than a river.
In addition to this, the Jordan River is noticeably polluted. There is a small section of the Jordan River, immediately south of Lake Tiberias, that has been kept pristine for local tourism and baptisms. However, the long stretch downstream of this area is the most polluted part of the river.
The change in the Jordan River is due to human impacts. They have both depleted the river by taking water out of it and polluted it by allowing brackish water and sewage to flow in. Environmentalists say that restoring this river to its former glory could take decades.
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