The Longest Rivers In Turkey

The village of Halfeti, Turkey along the Euphrates.
The village of Halfeti, Turkey along the Euphrates.

The Republic of Turkey boasts of housing parts of two of the most important Biblical and historical rivers flowing within its landmass. The Euphrates River is the longest and most important river in Western Asia, and River Tigris define Mesopotamia. The two rivers form the Euphrates-Tigris River system. However, these two rivers also flow in Iraq and Syria as well and as such disputes are likely to occur. The Kizilirmak (Halys) is the longest river running wholly in Turkey. The highlands of Turkey, from the south and eastern is the source these mighty rivers. The rivers winds through Turkish territory before crossing borders to foreign lands. The Kura River for examples zigzags Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.


Turks call the Euphrates the Firat Nehri. It is the longest in Southwest Asia at 1,740 miles. The river rises from the Armenian highlands in Turkey at the confluence of the Karasu and Murat Rivers. It flows southeast to the Syrian Plateau and across Iraq where it meets the Tigris to flow as Shatt-Al-Arab before draining into the Persian Gulf. In the mountains of Turkey, the river flows through xeric woodland. In moisture parts, oaks, Rosaceae, and pistachio trees grow. In the drier parts cereals such as einkorn wheat, oat, rye, and emmer wheat grow. Mixed woodland of steppe vegetation rises to the south of the xeric forest. As it enters Iraq, the river passes through an actual dessert where no vegetation grows due to the excessive human interference to a natural water body. During the biblical years and civilizations that followed along its course, the river provided irrigation water and fed the people. Throughout history, overgrazing by inhabitants has threatened the river and its ecosystem. The river discharge regime is also altered by the construction of dams and irrigation set along the banks. Besides, the reservoirs reduce the river water available to the people as evaporation rates are in Turkey.


The River Tigris is sourced from the Taurus Mountains, 30 kilometers east of the headwaters of the Euphrates. Tigris runs for 1,150 miles before joining the course with the Euphrates and emptying into the Persian Gulf. In Turkey, the river flows for 400 kilometers before forming the border between Syria and Turkey. Similar to the Euphrates, civilizations and urbanization have arisen along its banks for millennia. The Sumerian civilization drew water from the banks of the River Tigris. Cities of Nineveh, Seleucia, and Ctesiphon flourished along the river banks. The port of Basra sits on the Shatt-al-Arab. Baghdad in Iraq stands on its banks. The river also provides transport routes in the desert country of Turkey. In World War I the river was used to supply General Townsend's Army just before the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The river has dams constructed on both the Iraqis and Turkish sides. The dams feed the irrigation schemes in the arid and semi-arid areas of the two countries. The dams control flooding in Iraq especially in the month of April when the snow melts in the Turkish mountains. The Tigris-Euphrates River has a similar biodiversity. The fauna along the course include the jackals, hyenas, mongooses, foxes, wolves, and gazelles. There are also bats, hares, shrews, river otters, and hedgehogs.


The Kura River, known in Turkish as the Kurucay, is the largest in Transcaucasia. Rising from the slopes of Mount Kisirindagi in Eastern Turkey, River Kura flows to Georgia and Azerbaijan where it confluences with its main tributary river Aras as it empties into the Caspian Sea. The Rivers runs for a total length of 941 miles. Steppe vegetation characterizes the Arid Areas of River Kura, and meadows occupy the alpine areas. Along with its course in the desert forests, the cover is small. Around 60 species of Loach, bleak, trout and many endemic fish species dominate the waters of Kura. As with major rivers in Asia, dams, reservoirs, and hydroelectric stations have been constructed along Kura River banks. For thousands of years, the Kura River has provided water for agriculture in the Kura Valley. Large civilizations that grew up on the banks of Kura are now in ruins as a result of natural disasters, and foreign invasion. Throughout the 20th Century, human activities have damaged the watershed forests and grassland, contributing to disastrous floods in the lower reaches of Kura River.

Kizilirmak (Halys)

The Kizilirmak is the longest river to run entirely within Turkey. The "Red River", Kizilirmak in Turkish, rises in the Eastern Anatolia, then flows for 842 miles to the west and southwest, then northeast past the Lake Tuz, it winds to the north and back to the northeast to meet the Delice River. From there it turns to the northwest to a confluence with the Devrez River and back to the northeast to join the Gökırmak. From here it flows into the Black Sea as a beautiful delta. Dams constructed along its banks include the Boyabat, Derbent, and Altınkaya. In the years before the 585 BC, the river formed the western boundary of Hatti, the city of Hittite Empire. Also, it formed the boundary between Asia and Asia Minor, and between Paphlogania and Pontos. On May 28, 585 BC it separated Lydia from Media during the Battle of Halys. Today the river is used to grow rice or support water buffalo rearing in other places. There is no navigation on the river, but it does provide a source of the hydroelectric power.

Territorial Disputes

Syria and Iraq criticize the manner in which Turkey controls the hydrological projects on the upper Euphrates' waters. These conflicts arise from the fact the Euphrates flows in the three countries. As in many ecosystems, human activity is the primary threat facing the rivers in Turkey. Urbanization and Pollution have depleted the water quality and biodiversity too. Preservation efforts if any are few, and these rivers are prone to further depletion and abuses.

The Longest Rivers In Turkey

RankLongest Rivers in TurkeyTotal Length
1Euphrates1,740 miles (shared with Iraq and Syria)
2Tigris1,150 miles (shared with Iraq and Syria)
3Kura941 miles (shared with Azerbaijan and Georgia)
4Kizilirmak (Halys)
842 miles
5Aras666 miles (shared with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran)
6Sakarya512 miles
7Murat449 miles
8Orontes355 miles (shared with Syria and Lebanon)
9Seyhan348 miles
10Buyuk Menderes341 miles

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