Drainage basins of the world’s longest rivers

Most of our planet’s surface is covered in water, but less than 1% of it is fresh water. The total water volume in rivers is measured at 2,120 cubic kilometers (510 mi³), or just 0.49% of the surface fresh water on the planet!

But despite this fact, rivers have played and still play a notable role in the development of civilization.

Rivers are the result of many compounding water inflows accumulated within a drainage basin. A drainage basin is defined as the land area where precipitation gathers and drains off, feeding rivers and their tributaries.

The map below created by Reddit user CountZapolai shows how large the drainage basins can be for the world’s longest rivers.

Basins of the longest rivers

The longer a river system becomes, the more territory it passes through. As a result, long rivers have extensive drainage basins.

Below are the list of the world’s top 30 longest rivers and the size of their drainage basins:

RankRiverLength in km (miles)Drainage area in km2 (mi2)Outflow
1Nile6,650 (4,130)3,254,555 (1,256,585)Mediterranean
2Amazon6,400 (3,976)7,000,000 (2,702,703)Atlantic Ocean
3Yangtze6,300 (3,917)1,800,000 (694,981)East China Sea
4Mississippi6,275 (3,902)2,980,000 (1,150,579)Gulf of Mexico
5Yenisei5,539 (3,445)2,580,000 (996,139)Kara Sea
6Yellow River5,464 (3,395)745,000 (287,645)Bohai Sea
7Ob–Irtysh5,410 (3,364)2,990,000 (1,154,440)Gulf of Ob
8Río de la Plata4,880 (3,364)2,582,672 (997,171)Río de la Plata
9Congo4,700 (2,922)3,680,000 (1,420,849)Atlantic Ocean
10Amur4,444 (2,763)1,855,000 (716,216)Sea of Okhotsk
11Lena4,400 (2,736)2,490,000 (961,390)Laptev Sea
12Mekong4,350 (2,705)810,000 (312,741)South China Sea
13Mackenzie4,241 (2,637)1,790,000 (691,120)Beaufort Sea
14Niger4,200 (2,611)2,090,000 (806,950)Gulf of Guinea
15Brahmaputra-Ganga3,969 (2,466)1,320,000 (509,655)Bay of Bengal
16Murray3,672 (2,282)1,061,000 (409,653)Southern Ocean
17Tocantins3,650 (2,270)950,000 (366,795)Atlantic Ocean, Amazon
18Volga3,645 (2,266)1,380,000 (532,819)Caspian Sea
19Indus3,610 (2,250)960,000 (370,656)Arabian Sea
20Euphrates3,596 (2,236)884,000 (341,313)Persian Gulf
21Yukon3,185 (1,980)328187 (328,187)Bering Sea
22São Francisco3,180 (1,976)610,000 (235,521)Atlantic Ocean
23Syr Darya3,078 (1,913)219,000 (84,556)Aral Sea
24Salween3,060 (1,901)324,000 (125,097)Andaman Sea
25Saint Lawrence3,058 (1,900)1,030,000 (397,683)Gulf of Saint Lawrence
26Rio Grande3,057 (1,900)570,000 (220,077)Gulf of Mexico
27Danube2,888 (1,795)817,000 (315,444)Black Sea
28Irrawaddy2,809 (1,745)404,200 (156,062)Andaman Sea
29Zambezi2,740 (1,703)1,330,000 (513,516)Mozambique Channel
30Amu Darya2,620 (1,628)534,739 (206,464)Aral Sea

The Amazon river has the largest basin globally, comprising 1/3 of South America. The tens longest rivers of the planet covering a land area similar to the size of Africa.

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