September 26 is World Rivers Day, drawing awareness to the importance of these vital and scenic waterways and how we can help protect them

Although rivers hold less than one percent of the total H2O on Earth, they are a critical source of fresh water, providing transportation and trade routes, a source for hydroelectric power, irrigation, habitat and drinking water to wildlife and communities. Rivers act as a lifeline to many places in the world and they offer beautiful views along the way.

We’ve rounded up some of the world’s most iconic rivers to inform and inspire you this World Rivers Day...

1. Nile River, Africa

Nile RiverPhoto by Jeremy Bezanger on UnsplashLargely accepted as the world’s longest river, the Nile flows 6,695 kilometres—that’s the length of 65,000 football pitches—through 11 countries in Northeast Africa, before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. It’s an important source of food, transportation and water in Africa as well as a habitat for wildlife.

2. Amazon River, South America

Amazon RiverPhoto by Nathalia Segato on UnsplashThe Amazon River is a close second behind the Nile as the world’s longest river, flowing through the mountains and rainforests in South America through the countries of Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname. It hosts an incredibly biodiverse ecosystem, home to species such as the black caiman, green anaconda, and Amazon River dolphin.

3. Danube River, Europe

Danube RiverPhoto by Alana Harris on UnsplashOne of the longest rivers in Europe, the Danube River is a critical waterway for the continent, used for freight transport, hydroelectricity, industrial and residential water. It begins in Germany and flows through 10 countries before emptying out into the Black Sea. Many settlements, castles and fortresses sit along the river's banks. 

4. Yangtze River, Asia

Yangtze River reflectionsPhoto by Shane Young on UnsplashThe longest river in Asia, China’s Yangtze River is incredibly picturesque and worth a visit. Its towering cliffs covered in lush vegetation are beautiful, and the rich terrain serves as a habitat for snow leopards, giant pandas and the Yangtze finless porpoise.

5. Zambezi River, Africa

Zambezi RiverPhoto by Ansie Potgieter on UnsplashThe powerful Zambezi River runs from Zambia through Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique before flowing into the Indian Ocean. It is a habitat for wildlife such as hippos and crocodiles and provides a water source for other members of the animal kingdom such as elephants, hyenas and lions. Its biggest claim to fame is being the home to the magnificent Victoria Falls, accessible from Zimbabwe and Zambia, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

6. Mississippi River, North America

MississippiPhoto by Jp Valery on UnsplashThe second longest river in North America, the Mississippi runs from Lake Itasca in Minnesota through nine other states before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. An important part of America's cultural history, this water highway allows for the transportation of food and other shipping supplies, and provides hydroelectric power and drinking water to many.

7. Rio Futaleufú, South America

Rio FutalefuPhoto by Sole D'Alessandro G. on UnsplashWith its name deriving from the Mapudungun word meaning “big river”, Rio Futaleufú runs from its headwaters in the UNESCO protected Los Alerces National Park in Argentina down to Chile. It is a glacier-fed river, meaning it is very cold, but also shines a beautiful turquoise colour. It’s renowned for its whitewater rafting and is also popular for kayaking.

8. Ganges River, Asia

Ganges RiverPhoto by Shiv Prasad on UnsplashThe Ganges River flows through India and Bangladesh from the Himalaya Mountains over to the Bay of Bengal. It is a holy river under the beliefs of Hinduism, considered to be the personification of the Goddess Ganga and used for traditional practices of bathing and scattering ashes of the deceased.

9. Caño Cristales, South America

Crystal ChannelWikimedia Commons/AstromarioVisit Caño Cristales when the conditions are right and your eyes will be treated to a delightful montage of shades of green, blue, yellow, red and orange. During peak season, typically from June to November, the rains and sunlight combine to cause the plants lining the riverbed to erupt into a vibrant spectrum of colour. Known as the “river of five colours” or “liquid rainbow”, Caño Cristales is definitely one to put on your travel list.

10. Congo River, Africa

Congo RiverWikimedia Commons/Bsm15Located in Central Africa, the Congo River is the world’s deepest by volume, measuring up to 230 metres at parts. That’s enough to submerge London’s clock tower, Big Ben, twice! Formerly known as Zaire River, the Congo River is commonly used for the transportation of people and goods.