Nile River

November 27, 2012 11:06 am

There are long , and there are famous . The mighty Nile is the world’s longest and most famous river. The Nile’s longest branch stretches 4,160 miles (6,695 kilometers) and crosses half a continent.
The Nile winds north from the heart of Africa. Crocodiles and hippopotamuses live in its waters. Gigantic pyramids built by ancient Egyptians rise along its banks.
For centuries, the source of the Nile River was a great mystery. The river passes through many landscapes on its journey, including thick rain forests, swamps, and deserts. Explorers had difficulty tracing the river to its beginning.
Today, we know that the main branch of the Nile starts just above Lake Victoria in east central Africa. The river begins as little more than a trickle.
From its humble beginnings, the Nile flows into Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest freshwater lake. The Nile draws much of its water from this great lake.
The Nile flows out of Lake Victoria to the north. The river crosses Uganda into Sudan, where it spreads out to form a massive swamp.
At the city of Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, another great river called the Blue Nile joins the White Nile—the river’s main branch. Together, they form one very powerful river.
At Sudan’s northern border, this river thunders over six waterfalls. From there, it winds through Egypt’s famous Nile Valley before reaching the Mediterranean Sea.
Where the Nile meets the sea, it fans out into a broad river delta that looks like a big triangle. This triangle is called the Nile River Delta.
Ancient Egypt, the first great African civilization, started along the banks of the Nile more than 5,000 years ago. Ancient Egypt ruled the Nile Valley for thousands of years. Its people built great pyramids, temples, and other monuments you can still visit today.
Rich farmland along the banks of the Nile made this ancient civilization possible. Every year, the Nile flooded its banks. The floodwaters covered the banks with a fertile soil called silt. The Nile’s banks were easy to farm and produced lush crops.
The Nile also made a perfect highway for boats. The river current flows north, but the wind on the river blows south. To go south, boaters put up sails to catch the wind. To go north, they took the sails down. Ancient people traded along the river for hundreds of miles.
Today, the Nile no longer flows free. Many dams rise up along the Nile to capture water. They help control flooding and provide electricity. But they also have contributed to pollution of the Nile.
The largest and most famous dam is the Aswan High Dam, completed by the Egyptian government in 1970. It created a giant lake called Lake Nasser.
Water from Lake Nasser drives huge engines that make electricity. The dam supplies most of Egypt’s electric power. Factories have sprung up along the Nile to use this power. Their wastes pollute the river.
The Aswan High Dam controls the flooding of the Nile below it. But it also stops silt from flowing downstream. Egyptian farmers must now use chemical fertilizers to replace the silt. These, too, pollute the river.
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