Rivers are the lifelines of human civilization. Looking back in history, some of the greatest civilizations grew up around a major river and these mighty water bodies have been serving mankind ever since.
Even today, some of the biggest cities in the world are based around a river and they serve as the lifeblood of these settlements in different ways. There are also different communities that live completely depending on the river.
Rivers serve so many purposes to us now. Apart from being a major source of water they also have unavoidable functions in helping us in different practices like agriculture, transportation, and also the growth of different kinds of industries.
With such a vital role in the life and survival of humans, it is very sad to note the different issues that many rivers around the world face.
Pollution and other similar human-made issues have led to the destruction of many rivers and so many lives that depend on the river for their survival too. It is also a good sign to see humans realize the mistakes that they have committed to these water bodies and do their best to reverse the effects.
Here we will not be talking about issues but will be looking into some of the biggest rivers in the United States. We have included the list of the top 10 longest rivers in the US and will be looking in detail into each one of them. So, here is a chance for you to know these mighty water bodies a bit more in detail. So let’s jump in!
List Of Best 10 Longest Rivers In The US 2023
- Missouri River – 2,540 Miles
- Mississippi River – 2,350 Miles
- Yukon River – 1,979 Miles
- Rio Grande River – 1,759 Miles
- Colorado River – 1,450 Miles
- Arkansas River – 1,443 Miles
- Columbia River – 1,234 Miles
- Red River – 1,125 Miles
- Snake River – 1,040 Miles
- Ohio River – 979 Miles
10. Ohio River – 979 Miles
Coming in at the tenth position on the list of the top 10 longest rivers in the US is the 979 miles long Ohio River. The river is also the third-largest river in the country in terms of volume discharge.
The Ohio River has great historic significance as it is the 6th oldest river that flows through the continent of North America.
The river is located in the Midwestern and Southern parts of the country and throughout the course of the river, it flows through or along the borders of six states.
Being one of the oldest rivers in the continent, the Ohio River had a major part to play in the westward expansion of the country by providing the pioneers with the perfect mode of easy transportation.
The river also holds great value in the history of the Native Americans as it is evident that many prehistoric and historic cities were formed along the valley of the river
As mentioned earlier, large rivers serve as the best site for a settlement and there are many different cities that are situated on the banks of the Ohio River too.
Looking at the cities along the banks of the river, they are some of the largest ones in their respective states. Some of the cities on the banks of the river include Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, Evansville, Owensboro, and so on.
Along with the highly developed and populated cities that are on the banks of the river, these towns are also heavily industrialized. There is regular barge traffic that carries different essential cargo like oil steel and other industrial goods that are produced in these regions.
9. Snake River – 1,040 Miles
Another major river in the country, the Snake River runs through the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and it is one of the largest tributaries of the Columbia River. Among the rivers in North America that empties into the Pacific Ocean, the Snake River is the biggest one of all.
It is the ‘Snake Indians,’ a community that used to live along the riverside that has given it the surprising name, unlike any other river in the country.
The Snake River originates in western Wyoming and then gradually flows through the Snake River plain and after a few more significant landmarks along the way, the river finally empties into the Columbia River.
The Snake River drainage basin includes almost six states of the country and the river is also known for its different geologic history.
Even though it is one of the most important rivers in the country, the agricultural run-offs from the ranches and farmlands that are situated in the Snake River plains pose a significant threat to the river.
Following the increase in the pollutants in the river, the US. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued different precautionary measures to ensure the cleanliness of the river.
Being one of the biggest rivers in the country, almost 20 days have been built along the course of the dam, and is being used for different purposes like irrigation and the production of hydroelectricity.
The river is also a life source for different plants and animal species. The wildlife that thrives on the banks of the river includes the grey wolf, grizzly bears, mountain lions, and many more.
8. Red River – 1,125 Miles
Red River is the top 8th longest river in the United States and is around 1,125 miles long. The name of the river comes from the color of the water of the river as it passes through the red-bed county. It should also be noted that it is one of the several rivers that have the same name.
The Red River is also the Great Plains’ second-largest river basin. Just like some of the older rovers in the country, the Red River also had different settlements along its banks and the Native American culture was also a strong presence among them.
Throughout the long course of the river, there are many different settlements that have developed into big cities now. Some of the major cities that are located on the banks of the Red River include Denison, Shreveport, Bossier City, Alexandria, and many more.
It should also be noted that the river has a number of other tributes that flow in from different parts too. As a result of the tributaries that are from above Lake Texoma, the water in the river gets a bit salty.
The watershed of the Red River covers a very large area and it is also one of the major river systems in the Great Plains.
The drainage basin of the river is spread across different states like Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, and also Louisiana. The main characteristic feature of the basin is the vast areas of agricultural land.
7. Columbia River – 1,234 Miles
The origins of the Columbia River are in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia in Canada and the river enters the United States through the state of Washington. Being one of the major rivers in the area, the Columbia River has played a great role in the economic and cultural growth of the area.
From ancient times, the river was used for transportation, which paved the way for the linking of some of the major cultures of the area. Also, the river is one of the major rivers in the county and it is said to be the river with the largest discharge that flows into the Pacific Ocean.
Valuable documents from history show that people had been depending on the river and had been inhabiting the lands on its banks for almost 15,000 years.
It is also evident that many indigenous groups like the Native Americans and First Nation people have a strong connection with the river that still continues into the present day.
Along with serving historical importance, the river is also very much vibrant in terms of the environment and the ecology that it helps to sustain.
The watershed of the Columbia River covers a wide variety of landscapes and is spread across a very large area. The watershed of the river includes parts of different national parks like Yellowstone National Park, Great Teton National Park, Glacier National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and many more.
6. Arkansas River – 1,443 Miles
One of the top 10 longest rivers in the US, the Arkansas River is also one of the biggest tributaries of the Mississippi River. The river covers a massive length of almost 1,443 miles and it covers different states like Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado through its long journey.
The river joins the Mississippi River in Arkansas and is the Mississippi River’s second-longest tributary. The origin of the river is in the Rocky Mountains which is located in the Lake County of Colorado. The different evidence collected over time also suggests that the river has changed its path over time.
For thousands of years, different nations of Native Americans have settled along the banks of the river Arkansas. Currently, in places of those settlements, there are other settlements that are situated on the banks of the river.
Some of the major cities on the banks of the river include Wichita, North Little Rock, Tulsa, Salida, and many more.
The headwaters of the Arkansas River which flows through central Colorado is very famous for trout fishing too. The greenback cutthroat trout was the major variety of trout in the river years back and currently, the river is dominated by brown trout.
5. Colorado River – 1,450 Miles
Even if most of them are unaware of more details about the river, most people know that the Colorado River is the river that flows through the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The name of the river comes from a Spanish word and it signifies the reddish color of the river due to the presence of its heavy silt load.
The origin of the Colorado River is also from the central Rock Mountains and the river opens into the Pacific Ocean through the Gulf of California. Following its course through the Arizona-Nevada border, the river crosses the International border and enters Mexico.
The Colorado River is most known for the dramatic canyons that the river passes through. It should also be noted that there are almost eleven National parks in the country that are located near the river. The river is also a very vital source of water for almost 40 million people who live on either side of the river.
Being one of the largest rivers in the country, a number of dams and other irrigation systems like aqueducts are also present on the river and these systems ensure the survival of the agricultural lands and also the steady flow of water to the urban water supply system from the river.
The river banks were the settlement sites of different communities including the Native Americans and available details suggest that there had been different settlements on the banks of the Colorado River for the past 8,000 years.
Some of the descendants of the tribes that used to settle near the banks of the river include the Puebloans and the Navajos.
Currently, along with being a source of water to different areas and sectors, the Colorado River also offers different kinds of recreational activities, and the area of the river that flows through the Grand Canyon is one of the major locations for such activities.
Different recreational activities like rafting and other similar activities are conducted in the river.
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4. Rio Grande River – 1,759 Miles
Rio Grande River is one of the major rivers in the southwestern region of the United States and it is ranked the 4th spot on the list of the top 10 longest rivers in the US. The river has its origin in the sound central region of Colorado and the river flows to the Gulf of Mexico.
The river that mainly flows through the semi-arid portions of the United States and Mexico is a major water source to almost seven states of the US and Mexico.
Throughout the curse of the river, the water from the river is used up for different purposes including agriculture and other industrial activities.
From a report that was published earlier, it is now scientifically proven that only 20 percent of the air from the Rio Grande River reaches the Gulf of Mexico as the remaining amount of water is used up for different activities all along the course of the river.
Through recent studies, it was understood that the water in the Rio Grande River is currently over-appropriate. This means that there are more users for the water in the river than the amount of water that is available in the river for use.
Following this shocking revelation, different measures were introduced by the officials in order to make sure that the river flows and sustains throughout. Severe droughts and other climatic changes have also affected the river in recent times.
3. Yukon River – 1,979 Miles
Not only in the United States, but the Yukon River is one of the major sources of water in the northwestern part of the North American continent. The origin of the river is in British Columbia, Canada, and from there, the lower half of the river continues through the American state of Alaska.
The river is considered the top 3 longest rivers in the US and the total length of the river is almost 1,979 miles. Completing its course of flow, the Yukon River finally empties into the Bering Sea at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
The course of the Yukon River includes different national refuges like the Innoko National wildlife refuge, Nowitna National wildlife refuge, Yukon Delta national refuge, and a few more of the kind.
Along with playing a major role in helping to sustain the different life forms that depend on the river for its survival, the Yukon River is also said to have a big prominence in history. The river was one of the major modes of transport during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-1903.
Even though the river is one of the longest rivers in the entire continent of North America, it is surprising to note that there are only four bridges across the entire length of the river that are able to allow the passage of vehicles across it.
The river was also reported to be affected by pollution from military installations, dumps, water wastes, and other sources.
2. Mississippi River – 2,350 Miles
In second position on the list of the top 10 longest rivers in the US is the Mississippi River which flows a massive length of around 2,350 miles.
The Mississippi River is also the chief river in the second largest drainage system in entire North America after the Hudson Bay drainage system. The source of the river is Lake Itasca which is located in Northern Minnesota and the river flows towards the Gulf of Mexico.
The watershed of the Mississippi River drains a very large area. The area is very large as the river also has a number of different tributaries too. Around 32 states of the United States also two counties of Canada come under the watershed of the river.
The river itself passes through different states in the country like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The river also serves as a natural boundary for states in some places.
Being such a large river. There had been many communities and settlements that had developed on the banks of the river right from ancient times. Currently, the river also has a few major metro areas in the country that have developed on its banks like the Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
St Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, LaCrosse WI, and many more. Along with the development of different metro areas, the river also offers a wide variety of recreational activities. It also has different national parks along the banks of the river too.
1. Missouri River – 2,540 Miles
Coming in at the top position on pir list of the top 10 longest rivers in the US is the Missouri River which stretches through record 2,540 miles. The river is responsible for being the water source for a very large area and it passes through parts of ten different American states and also two provinces of Canada.
Being the longest river in the country, the Missouri River has a very important historic and cultural status. Experts say that people have depended on the river for almost 12,000 years for their water needs. The river and its major tributaries were also used by prole as a major mode of transportation.
The Missouri River originates in the Rocky Mountains which is located in the southwestern part of Montana. In its course, the Missouri River combines with the lower Mississippi River and the result of the combination of these two rivers is the world’s fourth largest river system.
The river system was populated and inhabited by ten different tribes of Native Americans and they depended heavily on the river for their survival. The river has also played a great role in the history of the country as it served as one of the major modes of transport during the westward expansion of the country.
Following the development of the technologies, different dams were built across the river and it has also transformed around 35% of the river into a chain of reservoirs.
The reservoir formed in the river as a result of these dams is some of the largest of its kind in the whole nation. These dams serve the purpose of generating power and also ensuring the regular water supply to the agricultural lands around.
Today, as tourism has grown into a highly profitable sector, the river also has different types of recreational activities associated with it.
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There is no doubt in saying that rivers are one of the vital factors that are needed for the growth of humans and human settlement.
They provide us with water, which is one of the most vital substances that is needed for our survival, and also with other different needed things.
Rivers also hold historic and cultural values as they have a huge impact on those aspects of our life too. So, we hope that you get a better view and understanding of the top 10 longest rivers in the US through us and do your best to make sure that these water bodies are maintained at their best.
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