Are you looking for the best fun facts about rivers? From the longest to the most dangerous, check out these amazing river facts now!
Rivers are often referred to as the cradle of civilization, but how much do you really know about the world’s most important waterways?
From the fertile crescent to the largest cities in the world, rivers have been an integral part in the evolution and advancement of humankind. We depend on rivers for drinking water, transportation and electricity.
Not to mention we also have an awesome time playing on rivers! Swimming, tubing, boating, fishing and whitewater rafting are just some of the activities that rivers are perfect for.
We’ll discover fun facts about rivers from 400 million years ago, rivers from outer space, and rivers that catch on fire. From the Amazon to the Zambezi, we’ve got the whole ABC’s of rivers covered.
When you think about rivers, which ones come to mind first? The impressive Nile that the Egyptian civilization was built upon? Or the mighty Mississippi, America’s most famous waterway? Or the granddaddy of all rivers, the impressive Amazon?
Well, we have facts about all three, plus many more river facts that are just as impressive but less well-known. Like the hidden underground rivers of London and the killer rapids of the Congo.
There are so many river facts we could have gone on forever! Let’s get this river discovery started shall we?
Table of Contents
23 Fun Facts About Rivers
1. The building blocks of civilization
Along the riverbanks of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers is where the first modern civilization of Mesopotamia emerged.
In fact, all of the world’s earliest civilizations developed along river banks including the Indus river in Pakistan and India, the Nile River in Egypt, and the Yellow River in China.
2. What is the world’s longest river?
The two most well-known rivers have been locked in a rivalry for centuries. The main question – what’s the longest river in the world?
Unbelievably, the Amazon and Nile have almost identical lengths of over 6,500 km! While not an exact science, new exploration and map-imaging in the 21st century point to the Amazon being slightly longer.
3. Who’s the widest?
While the Nile and Amazon battle it out over length, we know for certain who’s the widest. That title goes to the Amazon. In the rainy season the width of the Amazon can expand to over 40 km (25 mi).
4. Ippississim River
From December 1811 to April 1812 the Mississippi Valley experienced several severe earthquakes in quick succession.
This heightened seismic activity was so intense that the Mississippi River reversed course and started flowing backwards for three days! Now that’s one of the craziest facts about rivers we’ve read!
5. Dam expensive
Spanning the Yangtze River, the Three Gorges Dam in China is a marvel of engineering. The dam is the world’s largest power station with a capacity of 22,500 megawatts and provides up to 11% of China’s electricity.
Wondering how much such a mega-project cost? A cool $32 billion.
6. Polluted and on fire
The Cuyahoga River in Ohio was one of the most well-known dirty rivers in the world. In fact, it was so polluted with industrial waste that it regularly caught on fire!
The good news? The dismal state of the river spurred the environmental movement and the Cuyahoga is now one of the greatest examples of river clean-up and restoration.
7. The holy river
Originating in the Himalayas and ending in West Bengal, the Ganges River supplies freshwater to over 500 million people.
The river is also one of the holiest sites in Hinduism with religious bathing rituals and funerals taking place on its banks every day. To Hindus, the river is known as “Mother Ganges”.
8. River of sheer power
One of the most impressive Amazon River facts is the sheer volume of water it carries. A mind-boggling 215,000 m3/s (7,600,000 cu ft/s).
This is more water volume than the next 7 largest rivers combined! The Amazon is also responsible for 20% of all freshwater entering the oceans.
9. Rivers in space
We thought it would be fun to search the galaxy for some more fun facts about rivers.
Did you know there’s a river on Saturn’s moon, Titan? There’s only one difference. The river doesn’t flow with water, but with liquid methane. Don’t go swimming in there!
10. The notorious killer rapids
The Inga rapids of the Congo River are the most dangerous and deadliest rapids in the world. In 2011, kayaker Steve Fisher and a crew of world-class kayakers were the first to successfully traverse the Class VII rapids.
11. The river swimmer
This might be the most impressive of all of our facts! Slovenian Martin Strel is the most prolific river swimmer of all time.
He has swam the entire lengths of the Danube, Mississippi, Yangtze and Amazon rivers. Strel’s Amazon swim took 66 straight days of 10 hour swims! Also, he’s been known to drink copious amounts of alcohol while swimming to get him through it. Very random we know!
12. Rolling in the deep
The Congo River in Central Africa is so deep that its deepest point hasn’t even been measured! Its depth is believed to be at least 230 meters (755 ft).
Another fun fact about the Congo River is that it’s the only river that crosses the equator… twice!
13. Liquid rainbow
The Colombian river, Cano Cristales, might be the most eye-catching river in the world. Known as the “River of Five Colors” during different times of the year the river can be yellow, green, blue, black and red.
What causes these striking hues? Different varieties of algae and sea plants.
14. The world’s tallest waterfall
Waterfalls are formed when the soft rock of a riverbed erodes, leaving the hard rock to form a cliff or edge.
Some of the most amazing waterfalls include Venezuela’s Angel Falls which are the world’s tallest at 979 meters (3,200 ft) and Laos’ Khone Falls which are the world’s widest at 10,783 meters (35,376 feet).
15. Impressive canyon
This erosion process of waterfalls is also similar to the formation of canyons. The most famous canyon of all, The Grand Canyon was formed by the powerful flow of the Colorado River around 6 million years ago!
16. Old man river
The Finke River in central Australia is thought to be the oldest river on Earth. It is estimated that the river is at least 300 million years old!
A few more Finke River facts: it flows only a few days a year and usually is absorbed into the Simpson Desert.
17. Death by fish
Rivers are home to some pretty deadly creatures! One of the most ferocious is the piranha of the Amazon and other South American rivers.
Piranha’s have razor-sharp teeth that can tear human flesh. In 2022, four people were killed by piranhas in the Paraguay River in Paraguay.
18. When crocodiles attack
The Nile crocodile is another of the river’s deadliest creatures. This apex predator will ambush prey, waiting in the river shallows for days or weeks until the perfect time to strike.
The Nile crocodile is responsible for hundreds of human deaths every year. Okay, we’re staying out of the water!
19. London’s hidden rivers
Deep below the surface of London runs a diverse and extensive network of underground rivers. Definitely one of the coolest facts about rivers we came across!
As the city of London grew the built-upon rivers were diverted through culverts and used as a sewage system.
20. Sing me a song
Rivers have been a great inspiration for many musicians. Hits about rivers include Moon River by Andy Williams (and Audrey Hepburn), River by Joni Mitchel, Proud Mary by CCR, Take Me To the River by Al Green and Cry Me A River by Justin Timberlake. What’s your favorite river tune?
21. River over a river?
In Germany, there is a water bridge built over the Elbe River so that boats can cross without having to lower their vessels into the river. It may be the only river intersection in the world!
22. The great river cities
Since we already learned that rivers are where civilizations tend to establish themselves and flourish, it will come as no surprise that many modern cities were built on the banks of rivers.
Some of these metropolises include; New York on the Hudson, London on the Thames, Rome on the Tiber, Paris on the Seine, and Shanghai on the Yangtze.
23. The importance of rivers
To finish off our river facts we thought we’d hit you up with an important day to remember. The fourth Sunday of every September is known as World Rivers Day.
The day brings awareness and encourages stewardship of all the rivers around the world. That’s a cause we can get on board with!
Who wants more fun facts?
If you’re looking for some recommendations, these are a few of our favorite fact books to buy. We use these when planning fun trivia nights with family and friends!
We really hope you enjoyed all our fun facts about rivers! Did you learn something new?
If there’s any we missed, you can let us know in the comments below and we’ll add them to this article!