Major Rivers Of Ethiopia

A waterfall on the Awash River laden with mud after a storm in central Ethiopia's Oromia Region.
A waterfall on the Awash River laden with mud after a storm in central Ethiopia's Oromia Region.

Ethiopia is a rugged and landlocked country located in the Horn of Africa. The country occupies a total land area of 1,126,829 square kilometers, making it the 27th largest country in the world. Ethiopia is bordered by Djibouti, Eritrea, South Sudan, Somali, and Kenya. The country is characterized by vast complex mountains, dissecting plateaus, lowlands, semi-desert, and tropical forests. Ethiopia has twelve lakes and nine major rivers with several tributaries. Despite the large water bodies in Ethiopia, there is hardly any perennial flow in areas below 1,500 meters. Ethiopia’s major rivers are looked at below.

River Nile

By some measures, the Nile is regarded as the world’s longest river measuring 4,258 miles, although others place the Amazon ahead of it. The waters of River Nile are shared by eleven countries namely Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan, Congo, Kenya, Eritrea, South Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia. The river has two main tributaries, namely the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The Nile’s mainstream and headwaters is the White Nile. The Nile empties its waters into the Mediterranean Sea while Lake Victoria is considered the source of River Nile. The Nile is considered the source of civilization for the communities living along its banks especially in Ethiopia and Egypt. The Nile is currently used for transportation of goods while its waters also support the communities living along its bank.

Blue Nile

The Blue Nile has its source waters in Lake Tana forming, and is one of the major tributaries of the River Nile. The upper course of the Blue Nile called Abby in Ethiopia is regarded as holy. The Blue Nile flows from Lake Tana to the western part of Ethiopia and into the northwest of Sudan. Along its course, the river forms the Blue Nile Falls near Tis-Abay Town. The Blue Nile has a total length of 901 miles from its source to its confluence, of which 500 miles is in Ethiopia. The Blue Nile contributes almost 59% of the Nile’s stream flow and also supports the livelihood of communities living along its banks. The Ethiopian government has constructed a mega dam, Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, to boost the economy.

Awash River

The course of the Awash River is entirely contained within the boundaries of Ethiopia, and empties into a chain of interconnected lakes. The river arises from Mount Warqe then flows around Mount Zuqualla and proceeds to towards Awash National Park. It is joined by Germama River, its chief affluent, before reaching Lake Gorgori. Awash River covers a distance of 746 miles with its tributaries including Logiya, Mille, Kabenna, Hawadi, and Durkham Rivers. The Awash River Valley is home to nature preserves for the African Wild ass, Beisa Oryx, Dorcas gazelle, and Grevy's zebra.

Shebelle River

The Shebelle River originates from the highlands of Ethiopia and flows into Somalia, where it becomes a seasonal body of water, alternatively emerging and disappearing at different times of the year. The river covers a distance of 702 miles making it the fourth longest river in Ethiopia. The name “Shebelle” is derived from a Somali word meaning "tiger" or "leopard". The Shebelle River has both seasonal and permanent tributaries. including the Ere River, Galetti River, and Wabe River. The river is surrounded by a sacred enclosure that is wooded with juniper trees. The Shebelle River has been marked by devastating flash floods, affecting as many as 70,000 people and killing 34 locals at once.

The Major Rivers Of Ethiopia

RankMajor Rivers of EthiopiaTotal Length
1Nile4,258 miles (shared with 10 other countries)
2Blue Nile901 miles (shared with Sudan)
3Awash746 miles
4Shebelle702 miles (shared with Somalia)
5Ganale Doria
533 miles
500 miles (shared with Sudan)
7Omo472 miles
8Tekeze378 miles (shared with Sudan and Eritrea)
9Dawa280 miles (shared with Kenya and Somalia)
10Weyib280 miles

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