The length of a river is measured from its source to its mouth. It is not always easy to determine the exact length of a river (some rivers have multiple channels, some go through cycles of erosion and flooding, and the shape of meanders can change over time), so the lengths set out below could change in the future (especially if a new source of one of the rivers is discovered).
The Top 20 Longest Rivers in the World
(1) Nile – 6650 km (4130 miles)
The Nile is still recognised as the longest river in the world (although some have suggested that the Amazon might be a little longer). It flows into the Mediterranean Sea. It is often associated with Egypt, but its drainage basin also includes parts of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Burundi.
Learn more about the Nile.
(2) Amazon – 6400 km (3976 miles)
The Amazon is the largest river in terms of its discharge volume of water (more than 200,000 cubic metres of water per second). Some people believe it is longer than the Nile too. The Amazon is located in South America and it flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
Learn more about the Amazon.
(3) Yangtze – 6300 km (3917 miles)
The Yangtze is Asia’s longest river. It is also the longest river to have a drainage basin that remains entirely within one country (China). It flows into the East China Sea. It is the seventh-largest river in terms of discharge volume.
Learn more about the Yangtze.
(4) Mississippi – 6275 km (3902 miles)
The Mississippi River is located in North America and flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Approximately 1% of the Mississippi’s drainage basin is in Canada. The rest is in the United States. It is the thirteenth-largest river in terms of discharge.
Learn more about the Mississippi.
(5) Yenisei – 5539 km (3445 miles)
Sometimes referred to as the Yenisey, the Yenisei is the largest river to drain into the Arctic Ocean. It is located in Asia and its drainage basin is mostly in Russia (about 3% is in Mongolia).
(6) Yellow River – 5539 km (3395 miles)
The Yellow River is China’s second-longest river, and it flows into the Bohai Sea. It is called the Yellow River because its water is very muddy in its lower course due to soil being carried downstream.
Learn more about the Yellow River.
(7) Ob – 5410 km (3364 miles)
The Ob is located in western Siberia in Russia and it flows into the Gulf of Ob (Arctic Ocean). The Gulf of Ob is the largest estuary in the world. The Ob’s drainage basin includes parts of Russia, Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia.
(8) River Plate – 4880 km (3030 miles)
River Plate is also known as the Rio de la Plata. It is located in South America and flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Its drainage basin includes parts of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Uruguay.
(9) Congo – 4700 km (2922 miles)
The Congo River used to be known as the Zaire River. It is the second-longest river in Africa (after the Nile) and it is the second-largest river in the world in terms of discharge volume. In addition, it is believed to be the world’s deepest river (with depths of more than 220 metres).
Learn more about the Congo.
(10) Amur – 4444 km (2763 miles)
Located in Asia, the Amur forms the border between the far east of Russia and the northeast of China. It flows into the Sea of Okhotsk (Pacific Ocean) and is sometimes called the Heilong Jiang.
(11) Lena – 4400 km (2736 miles)
Located in Russia, the Lena flows into the Laptev Sea (Arctic Ocean). It is the longest river to be totally contained within Russia’s borders. Most of the Lena’s drainage basin is underlied with permafrost.
(12) Mekong – 4350 km (2705 miles)
The Mekong is located in Asia and flows into the South China Sea. It is Asia’s sixth-longest river, and its course runs through Tibet, China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Learn more about the Mekong.
(13) Mackenzie – 4241 km (2637 miles)
The Mackenzie River is located in Canada, and it has the second-largest drainage basin in North America (after the drainage basin of the Mississippi). It flows into the Beaufort Sea (Arctic Ocean).
(14) Niger – 4200 km (2611 miles)
The Niger River is the main river in West Africa. It flows into the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean), and its drainage basin includes Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Algeria, Guinea, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso.
Learn more about the Niger River.
(15) Brahmaputra – 3969 km (2466 miles)
The Brahmaputra course goes through China, India, and Bangladesh. It is the ninth-largest river by discharge volume, and it flows into the Ganges Delta. The Brahmaputra is also known as Yarlung Tsangpo.
(16) Murray – 3672 km (2282 miles)
The Murray River is Australia’s longest river. It is located in south-eastern Australia and flows into the Southern Ocean. Five out of the next six longest Australian rivers are all tributaries of the Murray River.
(17) Tocantins / Araguaia – 3650 km (2270 miles)
Located in Brazil, the Tocantins River runs south to north and flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Its name means toucan’s beak.
(18) Volga – 3645 km (2266 miles)
The Volga is Europe’s longest river. Located in Russia, the Volga flows into the Caspian Sea. It is also Europe’s largest river in terms of discharge volume.
Learn more about the Volga.
(19) Indus – 3610 km (2250 miles)
The Indus is located in Asia and its course takes it through China (Tibetan Plateau), India, and Pakistan. It flows into the Arabian Sea near the port of Karachi (Pakistan).
Learn more about the Indus.
(20) Euphrates / Shatt al-Arab – 3596 km (2236 miles)
One of the most important rivers in Western Asia, the Euphrates flows through Syria and Iraq and joins the Shatt al-Arab (with the Tigris) before emptying out into the Persian Gulf.
Learn more about the Euphrates.
Discover more about the rivers of the world by visiting our Rivers resources page.