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The Congo River ( kg, Nzâdi Kôngo, french: Fleuve Congo, pt, Rio Congo), formerly also known as the Zaire River, is the second longest river in
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous , after in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of 's total surface area and 20% of its land area.Sayre ...

Africa
, shorter only than the
Nile The Nile, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin Nobiin, or Mahas, is a Northern Nubian languages, Nubian language of the Nilo-Saharan languages, Nilo-Saharan language family. "Nobiin" is the genitive case, genitive form of ''Nòòbíí'' ("Nubi ...

Nile
, as well as the second largest river in the world by discharge volume, following only the
Amazon Amazon usually refers to: * Amazons In Greek mythology, the Amazons (Ancient Greek: Ἀμαζόνες ''Amazónes'', singular Ἀμαζών ''Amazōn'') are portrayed in a number of ancient Greek, ancient epic poems and legends, such as the ...

Amazon
. It is also the world's deepest recorded river, with measured depths in excess of . The Congo- Lualaba-
Chambeshi River The Chambeshi (or Chambezi) River of northeastern Zambia is the most remote headstream of the Congo River (in length) and therefore its source is in the Congo River. (However, by volume of water, the Lualaba River is the greater "source" of the Cong ...

Chambeshi River
system has an overall length of , which makes it the world's ninth- longest river. The Chambeshi is a tributary of the
Lualaba River The Lualaba River flows entirely within the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the greatest River source, river source (headstream) of the Congo River by volume of water. The Lualaba is long. Its River source, headwaters are in the ...
, and ''Lualaba'' is the name of the Congo River upstream of
Boyoma Falls Boyoma Falls, formerly known as Stanley Falls, is a series of seven Waterfall#Types, cataracts, each no more than high, extending over more than along a curve of the Lualaba River between the river port towns of Ubundu and Kisangani (also known as ...
, extending for . Measured along with the Lualaba, the main
tributary A tributary, or affluent, is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem (or parent) river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. Tributaries and the main stem river drain the surrounding drainage ba ...
, the Congo River has a total length of . It is the only major river to cross the
equator The Equator is a , about in circumference, that divides into the and hemispheres. It is an located at 0 degrees , halfway between the and poles. In , as applied in , the equator of a rotating (such as a ) is the parallel (circle of l ...

equator
twice. The
Congo Basin The Congo Basin (french: Bassin du Congo) is the sedimentary basin of the Congo River. The Congo Basin is located in Central Africa, in a region known as west equatorial Africa. The Congo Basin region is sometimes known simply as the Congo. It con ...
has a total area of about , or 13% of the entire African landmass.


Name

The name Congo/Kongo river originates from the
Kingdom of Kongo Kingdom may refer to: Monarchy * A type of monarchy A monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. Li ...
once located on the southern bank of the river. The kingdom in turn was named for the indigenous Bantu
Kongo people The Kongo people ( kg, Bisi Kongo, , singular: ; also , singular: ) are a Bantu people, Bantu ethnic group primarily defined as the speakers of Kongo language, Kikongo). They have lived along the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic coast of Central Africa ...
, known in the 17th century as "Esikongo". South of the Kingdom of Kongo proper lay the similarly named
Kakongo Kakongo was a former small kingdom located on the Atlantic coast of Central Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) ...
kingdom, mentioned in 1535.
Abraham Ortelius Abraham Ortelius (; also Ortels, Orthellius, Wortels; 14 April 152728 June 1598) was a Brabantian Brabantian or Brabantish, also Brabantic or Brabantine ( nl, Brabants, Standard Dutch pronunciation: , ), is a dialect The term dialect (from ...

Abraham Ortelius
in his world map of 1564 labeled as "Manicongo" the city at the mouth of the river. The tribal names in ''Kongo'' possibly derive from a word for a public gathering or tribal assembly. The modern name of the
Kongo people The Kongo people ( kg, Bisi Kongo, , singular: ; also , singular: ) are a Bantu people, Bantu ethnic group primarily defined as the speakers of Kongo language, Kikongo). They have lived along the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic coast of Central Africa ...
or ''Bakongo'' was introduced in the early 20th century. The name ''Zaire'' is from a
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

Portuguese
adaptation of a
Kikongo Kongo or Kikongo is one of the Bantu languages spoken by the Kongo people living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Angola and Gabon. It is a tonal language. It was spoken by many of those who were taken from the ...
word, ("river"), a truncation of ("river swallowing rivers"). The river was known as ''Zaire'' during the 16th and 17th centuries; ''Congo'' seems to have replaced ''Zaire'' gradually in English usage during the 18th century, and ''Congo'' is the preferred English name in 19th-century literature, although references to ''Zahir'' or ''Zaire'' as the name used by the inhabitants remained common. The
Democratic Republic of the Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo ( french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC) ), also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, the DRC, the DROC, or the Congo, and formerly Zaire Zaire (), officially the Republic of Zaire (french: ...

Democratic Republic of the Congo
and the
Republic of the Congo The Republic of the Congo ( french: République du Congo, mkw, Repubilika ya Kôngo), also known as Congo-Brazzaville, the Congo Republic or simply either Congo or the Congo, is a country located in the western coast of Central Africa ...
are named after it, as was the previous
Republic of the Congo The Republic of the Congo ( french: République du Congo, mkw, Repubilika ya Kôngo), also known as Congo-Brazzaville, the Congo Republic or simply either Congo or the Congo, is a country located in the western coast of Central Africa ...
which had gained independence in 1960 from the
Belgian Congo The Belgian Congo (french: link=no, Congo belge, ; nl, Belgisch-Congo) was a Belgian colonial empire, Belgian colony in Central Africa from 1908 until independence in 1960. The former colony adopted its present name, the Democratic Republic of ...

Belgian Congo
. The
Republic of Zaire Zaire (), officially the Republic of Zaire (french: République du Zaïre ), was the name of a sovereign state between 1971 and 1997 in Central Africa Central Africa is a subregion of the African continent A continent is on ...
during 1971–1997 was also named after the river's name in
French
French
and
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

Portuguese
.


Basin and course

The Congo's
drainage basin A drainage basin is any area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet, such as into a river, bay, or other body of water. The drainage basin includes all the surface water from surface runoff, rain runoff, snowm ...

drainage basin
covers , an area larger than
India India, officially the Republic of India (: ), is a country in . It is the by area, the country, and the most populous in the world. Bounded by the on the south, the on the southwest, and the on the southeast, it shares land borders wit ...

India
. The Congo's discharge at its mouth ranges from , with an average of . The river and its
tributaries A tributary or affluent is a stream or river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its ...
flow through the Congo Rainforest, the second largest
rain forest Rainforests are forest A forest is an area of land dominated by trees. Hundreds of definitions of forest are used throughout the world, incorporating factors such as tree density, tree height, land use, legal standing and ecological func ...

rain forest
area in the world, after the
Amazon Rainforest The Amazon rainforest, alternatively, the Amazon jungle or ; es, Selva amazónica, , or usually ; french: Forêt amazonienne; nl, Amazoneregenwoud. In English, the names are sometimes capitalized further, as Amazon Rainforest, Amazon Forest ...

Amazon Rainforest
in South America. The river also has the second-largest flow in the world, behind the
Amazon Amazon usually refers to: * Amazons In Greek mythology, the Amazons (Ancient Greek: Ἀμαζόνες ''Amazónes'', singular Ἀμαζών ''Amazōn'') are portrayed in a number of ancient Greek, ancient epic poems and legends, such as the ...

Amazon
; the second-largest drainage basin of any river, behind the Amazon; and is one of the deepest rivers in the world, at depths greater than . Because its drainage basin includes areas both north and south of the
equator The Equator is a , about in circumference, that divides into the and hemispheres. It is an located at 0 degrees , halfway between the and poles. In , as applied in , the equator of a rotating (such as a ) is the parallel (circle of l ...

equator
, its flow is stable, as there is always at least one part of the river experiencing a rainy season. The sources of the Congo are in the
highlands Highlands or uplands are any mountainous region or elevated mountainous plateau. Generally speaking, upland (or uplands) refers to ranges of hills, typically up to . Highland (or highlands) is usually reserved for ranges of low mountains. Highland ...
and
mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summit area, and is larger than a hill, typically rising at least ...

mountain
s of the
East African Rift File:East Africa Rift System GPS and stresses.png, Main rift faults, plates, plate boundaries, GPS plate velocities between adjacent blocks and minimum horizontal stress directions The East African Rift (EAR) or East African Rift System (EARS) is ...
, as well as
Lake Tanganyika Lake Tanganyika is an African Great Lake. It is the second-oldest freshwater lake in the world, the second-largest by volume, and the second-deepest, in all cases after Lake Baikal in Siberia. It is the world's longest freshwater lake. The la ...

Lake Tanganyika
and
Lake Mweru Lake Mweru (also spelled ''Mwelu'', ''Mwero'') is a freshwater lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land, apart from any river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, f ...

Lake Mweru
, which feed the
Lualaba River The Lualaba River flows entirely within the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the greatest River source, river source (headstream) of the Congo River by volume of water. The Lualaba is long. Its River source, headwaters are in the ...
, which then becomes the Congo below
Boyoma Falls Boyoma Falls, formerly known as Stanley Falls, is a series of seven Waterfall#Types, cataracts, each no more than high, extending over more than along a curve of the Lualaba River between the river port towns of Ubundu and Kisangani (also known as ...
. The
Chambeshi River The Chambeshi (or Chambezi) River of northeastern Zambia is the most remote headstream of the Congo River (in length) and therefore its source is in the Congo River. (However, by volume of water, the Lualaba River is the greater "source" of the Cong ...

Chambeshi River
in Zambia is generally taken as the source of the Congo in line with the accepted practice worldwide of using the longest tributary, as with the Nile River. The Congo flows generally toward the northwest from
Kisangani Kisangani (formerly Stanleyville or Stanleystad) is the capital of Tshopo province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the fifth most populous urban area in the country, with an estimated population of 1,261,000 in 2020, and the large ...

Kisangani
just below the Boyoma falls, then gradually bends southwestwards, passing by
Mbandaka Mbandaka (, formerly known as Coquilhatville in French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is ...
, joining with the
Ubangi River The Ubangi River (), also spelled Oubangui, is the largest right-bank tributary A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem (or parent) river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea ...
, and running into the
Pool Malebo The Pool Malebo, formerly Stanley Pool, also known as Mpumbu, Lake Nkunda or Lake Nkuna by local indigenous people in pre-colonial times, is a lake-like widening in the lower reaches of the Congo River The Congo River ( kg, Nzâdi Kôngo, frenc ...
(Stanley Pool).
Kinshasa Kinshasa (; ; ln, Kinsásá), formerly Léopoldville ( nl, Leopoldstad), is the Capital city, capital and the List of cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the largest city i ...

Kinshasa
(formerly Léopoldville) and
Brazzaville Brazzaville (, kg, Kintamo, Nkuna, Kintambo, Mavula, Tandala; Teke languages, Teke: ''M'fa'', ''Mfwa'', ''Mfa'', ''Mfua'', ''Mfoa''Roman Adrian Cybriwsky, ''Capital Cities around the World: An Encyclopedia of Geography, History, and Culture'', A ...
are on opposite sides of the river at the Pool, where the river narrows and falls through a number of
cataracts A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens A lens is a transmissive optical Optics is the branch of physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'natur ...
in deep canyons (collectively known as the
Livingstone Falls Image:Chutes Livingstone.jpg, 250px, The beginning of the Livingstone Falls near Kinshasa Livingstone Falls (French language, French: ''Chutes Livingstone''; Dutch language, Dutch: ''Livingstonewatervallen''), named for British explorer David ...

Livingstone Falls
), running by
Matadi Matadi is the chief sea port of the Democratic Republic of the Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ( french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC) ), also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo (french: RD Congo), the DROC, or simpl ...

Matadi
and Boma, and into the sea at the small town of
Muanda Moanda or Muanda is a town and territory A territory is an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as wel ...
. The Congo River Basin is one of the distinct physiographic sections of the larger Mid-African province, which in turn is part of the larger African massive physiographic division.


Sediment transport

The river transports annually 86 million tonnes of
suspended sediment The suspended load of a flow of fluid In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually Deformation (mechanics), deforms (flows) under an applied shear stress, or external force. Fluids are a Phase (matter), phase of matter and include liqui ...
to the and an additional 6% of
bedload 300px, Bed load sediment in the Campbell Creek in Alaska">Campbell_Creek_(Alaska).html" ;"title="thalweg of Campbell Creek (Alaska)">Campbell Creek in Alaska. The term bed load or bedload describes particles in a flowing fluid (usually water) that ...
.


Lower Congo

Lower Congo constitutes the 'lower' parts of the great river; that is the section of the river from the
river mouth A river mouth is where a river flows into a larger body of water ( Lysefjord) in Norway Norway ( nb, ; nn, ; se, Norga; smj, Vuodna; sma, Nöörje), officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic countries, Nordic country in Nor ...

river mouth
at the to the twin
capitals Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter, an upper-case letter in any type of writing * Capital city, the area of a country, province, region, or state, regarded as enjoying primary status, usually but not always the seat of the governm ...
of
Brazzaville Brazzaville (, kg, Kintamo, Nkuna, Kintambo, Mavula, Tandala; Teke languages, Teke: ''M'fa'', ''Mfwa'', ''Mfa'', ''Mfua'', ''Mfoa''Roman Adrian Cybriwsky, ''Capital Cities around the World: An Encyclopedia of Geography, History, and Culture'', A ...
in the
Republic of the Congo The Republic of the Congo ( french: République du Congo, mkw, Repubilika ya Kôngo), also known as Congo-Brazzaville, the Congo Republic or simply either Congo or the Congo, is a country located in the western coast of Central Africa ...
and
Kinshasa Kinshasa (; ; ln, Kinsásá), formerly Léopoldville ( nl, Leopoldstad), is the Capital city, capital and the List of cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the largest city i ...

Kinshasa
in the
DR Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo ( french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC) ), also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, the DRC, the DROC, or the Congo, and formerly Zaire Zaire (, ), officially the Republic of Zaire (french ...
. In this section of the river, there are two significant
tributaries A tributary or affluent is a stream or river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its ...
to the great Congo River, both on the left or south side. The
Kwilu River The Kwilu River (or Quilo River) is a major river that originates in Angola , national_anthem = " Angola Avante"() , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Luanda , religion = , religion_year = 2015 , ...
originates in the hills near the
border Borders are boundaries of or legal s, such as s, , , and other . Borders are established through agreements between political or social entities that control those areas; the creation of these agreements is called . Some borders—such as mos ...
and enters the Congo some 100 km upstream from
Matadi Matadi is the chief sea port of the Democratic Republic of the Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ( french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC) ), also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo (french: RD Congo), the DROC, or simpl ...

Matadi
. The other being the Inkisi River, that flows in a northerly direction from the Uíge Province in
Angola , national_anthem = "Angola Avante"() , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Luanda , religion = , religion_year = 2015 , religion_ref = , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , o ...

Angola
to the
confluence In geography, a confluence (also: ''conflux'') occurs where two or more flowing bodies of water join together to form a single channel. A confluence can occur in several configurations: at the point where a tributary joins a larger river (main ...

confluence
with the Congo at Zongo some 80 km downstream from the twin capitals. Due to the vast number of
rapids Rapids are sections of a river where the river bed has a relatively steep gradient In vector calculus, the gradient of a scalar-valued function, scalar-valued differentiable function of Function of several variables, several variables is the ...
, in particular, the
Livingstone Falls Image:Chutes Livingstone.jpg, 250px, The beginning of the Livingstone Falls near Kinshasa Livingstone Falls (French language, French: ''Chutes Livingstone''; Dutch language, Dutch: ''Livingstonewatervallen''), named for British explorer David ...

Livingstone Falls
, this section of the river is not operated continuously by riverboats.


Tributaries to the Congo river

The drainage basin of the Congo River includes most of
Central Africa Central Africa is a subregion of the Africa, African continent comprising various countries according to different definitions. Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic ...

Central Africa
. The main river and tributaries are (sorted in order from the mouth heading upstream): ; Lower Congo (
river mouth A river mouth is where a river flows into a larger body of water ( Lysefjord) in Norway Norway ( nb, ; nn, ; se, Norga; smj, Vuodna; sma, Nöörje), officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic countries, Nordic country in Nor ...

river mouth
to
Kinshasa Kinshasa (; ; ln, Kinsásá), formerly Léopoldville ( nl, Leopoldstad), is the Capital city, capital and the List of cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the largest city i ...

Kinshasa
): Downstream of Kinshasa, from the river mouth at
Banana A banana is an elongated, edible fruit – botanically a berry (botany), berry – produced by several kinds of large herbaceous flowering plants in the genus ''Musa (genus), Musa''. In some countries, Cooking banana, bananas used for c ...
, there are a few major tributaries, all on the left side. * Mpozo * Kwilu * Inkisi ;
Middle Congo Middle or The Middle may refer to: * Centre (geometry), the point equally distant from the outer limits. Places * Middle (sheading), a subdivision of the Isle of Man * Middle Bay (disambiguation) * Middle Brook (disambiguation) * Middle Creek (dis ...
(Kinshasa to the
Boyoma Falls Boyoma Falls, formerly known as Stanley Falls, is a series of seven Waterfall#Types, cataracts, each no more than high, extending over more than along a curve of the Lualaba River between the river port towns of Ubundu and Kisangani (also known as ...
): * Kwa-Kassai (left) – 2150 km – 881,900 km2, 11,500 m3/s **
Fimi The Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana (FIMI) is an umbrella organization that keeps track of virtually all aspects of the music recording industry in Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Itali ...
*** Lukenie ** **
Sankuru Sankuru is one of the 21 new provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo There are currently twenty-five provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ( french: République démocratiq ...
* Lefini (right) *
Sangha Sangha is a Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European langua ...
(right) – 1,400 km, 213,400 km2, 2,471 m3/s ** Kadéï * Ubangi/ (right) – 2,270 km, 772,800 km2, 5,936 m3/s **
Mbomou :''Mbomou'' can also refer to the Mbomou River. Mbomou is one of the sixteen prefectures of the Central African Republic. It covers an area of and has a population of 132,740 (2003 census), giving a population density of only 2.2 inhabitants per ...
** Uele * Tshuapa or Ruki River (left) – 1,000 km, 174,000 km2, 4,450 m3/s * Lulonga ** Lopori ** Maringa *
Mongala Mongala is one of the 21 new provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo created in the Subdivisions of the DR Congo#New provinces, 2015 repartitioning. Mongala, Équateur Province, Équateur, Nord-Ubangi, Sud-Ubangi, and Tshuapa provinces ...
*
Itimbiri River The Itimbiri River is a right tributary of the Congo River, which it joins above Bumba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bumba. At one time it was important as a navigable waterway for transporting good from the northeast of the country down to the ...
* Aruwimi
Lomami River The Lomami River is a major tributary of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The river is approximately long. It flows north, west of and parallel to the upper Congo. The Lomami rises in the south of the country, near Kamina a ...
(left) – 1,400 km *
Lindi Lindi Town is a southern Tanzanian coastal town and regional capital of Lindi Region located at the far end of Lindi Bay, on the Indian Ocean in southeastern Tanzania. The town is south of Dar es Salaam and north of Mtwara, the southernmo ...
; Upper Congo (Upstream from the Boyoma Falls): Upstream of
Boyoma Falls Boyoma Falls, formerly known as Stanley Falls, is a series of seven Waterfall#Types, cataracts, each no more than high, extending over more than along a curve of the Lualaba River between the river port towns of Ubundu and Kisangani (also known as ...
near
Kisangani Kisangani (formerly Stanleyville or Stanleystad) is the capital of Tshopo province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the fifth most populous urban area in the country, with an estimated population of 1,261,000 in 2020, and the large ...

Kisangani
, the river Congo is known as the
Lualaba River The Lualaba River flows entirely within the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the greatest River source, river source (headstream) of the Congo River by volume of water. The Lualaba is long. Its River source, headwaters are in the ...
. * Several right bank tributaries * Luvua ** Luapula ***


Economic importance

Although the
Livingstone Falls Image:Chutes Livingstone.jpg, 250px, The beginning of the Livingstone Falls near Kinshasa Livingstone Falls (French language, French: ''Chutes Livingstone''; Dutch language, Dutch: ''Livingstonewatervallen''), named for British explorer David ...

Livingstone Falls
prevent access from the sea, nearly the entire Congo above them is readily
navigable A body of water, such as a river, canal or lake, is navigable if it is deep, wide and calm enough for a water vessel (e.g. boats) to pass safely. Such a navigable water is called a ''waterway'', and is preferably with few obstructions against dire ...
in sections, especially between
Kinshasa Kinshasa (; ; ln, Kinsásá), formerly Léopoldville ( nl, Leopoldstad), is the Capital city, capital and the List of cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the largest city i ...

Kinshasa
and
Kisangani Kisangani (formerly Stanleyville or Stanleystad) is the capital of Tshopo province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the fifth most populous urban area in the country, with an estimated population of 1,261,000 in 2020, and the large ...

Kisangani
. Large river steamers worked the river until quite recently. The Congo River still is a lifeline in a land with few roads or railways.
Railway Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine that transports people or cargo. Vehicles include wagons, bicycles, motor veh ...

Railway
s now bypass the three major falls, and much of the trade of
Central Africa Central Africa is a subregion of the Africa, African continent comprising various countries according to different definitions. Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic ...

Central Africa
passes along the river, including
copper Copper is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Cu (from la, cuprum) and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductility, ductile metal with very high thermal conductivity, thermal and electrical conductivity. A fre ...

copper
,
palm oil Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil Vegetable oils, or vegetable fats, are oil An oil is any nonpolar chemical substance A chemical substance is a form of matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substa ...

palm oil
(as kernels),
sugar Sugar is the generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrate is a disaccharide A disaccharide (also called a double sugar or ''biose'') is the sugar formed when two monosaccharides are joined by glycosidic linkage. Like monosacc ...

sugar
,
coffee Coffee is a drink prepared from roasted s, the seeds of from certain s in the ' genus. From the coffee fruit, the seeds are separated to produce a stable, raw product: unroasted ''green coffee''. The seeds are then , a process which transfo ...

coffee
, and
cotton Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective case, around the seeds of the cotton plants of the genus '' Gossypium'' in the mallow family Malvaceae. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. Under natural condition ...

cotton
. The river is also potentially valuable for
hydroelectric power Hydroelectricity, or hydroelectric power, is electricity produced from hydropower Hydropower (from el, ὕδωρ, "water"), also known as water power, is the use of falling or fast-running water to produce electricity or to power machin ...
, and the s below
Pool Malebo The Pool Malebo, formerly Stanley Pool, also known as Mpumbu, Lake Nkunda or Lake Nkuna by local indigenous people in pre-colonial times, is a lake-like widening in the lower reaches of the Congo River The Congo River ( kg, Nzâdi Kôngo, frenc ...
are first to exploit the Congo river.


Hydroelectric power

The Congo River is the most powerful river in Africa. During the rainy season over of water per second flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Opportunities for the Congo River and its tributaries to generate hydropower are therefore enormous. Scientists have calculated that the entire
Congo Basin The Congo Basin (french: Bassin du Congo) is the sedimentary basin of the Congo River. The Congo Basin is located in Central Africa, in a region known as west equatorial Africa. The Congo Basin region is sometimes known simply as the Congo. It con ...
accounts for 13 percent of global hydropower potential. This would provide sufficient power for all of sub-Saharan Africa's electricity needs.Alain Nubourgh, Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC)
. Weetlogs.scilogs.be (2010-04-27). Retrieved on 2011-11-29.
Currently there are about forty hydropower plants in the Congo Basin. The largest are the Inga dams, about southwest of
Kinshasa Kinshasa (; ; ln, Kinsásá), formerly Léopoldville ( nl, Leopoldstad), is the Capital city, capital and the List of cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the largest city i ...

Kinshasa
. The project was launched in the early 1970s, when the first dam was completed. The plan (as originally conceived) called for the construction of five dams that would have had a total generating capacity of 34,500 megawatts. To date only the Inga I and Inga II dams have been built, generating 1,776 MW. In February 2005, South Africa's Government-owned corporation, state-owned power company, Eskom, announced a proposal to expand generation through improvements and the construction of Grand Inga Dam, a new hydroelectric dam. The project would bring the maximum output of the facility to , twice that of China's Three Gorges Dam. It is feared that these new hydroelectric dams could lead to the extinction of many of the fish species that are native to the river.


Natural history

The current course of the Congo River formed between 1.5 and 2 million years Before Present, BP, during the Pleistocene. "It is hypothesized that in the late Pliocene or early Pleistocene, a coastal Lower Guinean river captured Malebo Pool, connecting the previously interior Congo Basin to the ocean." Thieme et al., ''Freshwater Ecoregions of Africa and Madagascar: A Conservation Assessment Ecoregions Assessments'', Island Press, 2005
p. 297
.
It is likely that during this period many upper tributaries of the Congo stream capture, were captured from adjacent river basins, including the Uele and upper Ubangi from Chari River, the Chari system and the
Chambeshi River The Chambeshi (or Chambezi) River of northeastern Zambia is the most remote headstream of the Congo River (in length) and therefore its source is in the Congo River. (However, by volume of water, the Lualaba River is the greater "source" of the Cong ...

Chambeshi River
alongside a number of upper Kasai River tributaries from Zambezi, the Zambezi system. The Congo's formation may have led to the allopatric speciation of the bonobo and the common chimpanzee from their most recent common ancestor. The bonobo is Endemism, endemic to the Congolian forests, humid forests in the region, as are other iconic species like the Allen's swamp monkey, dryas monkey, aquatic genet, okapi, and Congo peafowl. In terms of aquatic life, the Congo River Basin has a very high species richness, and among the highest known concentrations of endemics. , almost 800 fish species have been recorded from the Congo River Basin (not counting
Lake Tanganyika Lake Tanganyika is an African Great Lake. It is the second-oldest freshwater lake in the world, the second-largest by volume, and the second-deepest, in all cases after Lake Baikal in Siberia. It is the world's longest freshwater lake. The la ...

Lake Tanganyika
, which is connected but ecologically very different), and large sections remain virtually unstudied.Freshwater Ecoregions of the World (2008).
Sudanic Congo – Oubangi.
'' Accessed 2 May 2011.
For example, the section in Salonga National Park, which is about the size of Belgium, had still not been sampled at all in 2006. New fish species are scientifically described with some regularity from the Congo River Basin and many undescribed species are known. The Congo has by far the highest diversity of any African river system; in comparison, the next richest are the Niger River, Niger, Volta River, Volta and
Nile The Nile, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin Nobiin, or Mahas, is a Northern Nubian languages, Nubian language of the Nilo-Saharan languages, Nilo-Saharan language family. "Nobiin" is the genitive case, genitive form of ''Nòòbíí'' ("Nubi ...

Nile
with about 240, 140 and 130 fish species, respectively. Due to this and the great ecological differences between the regions in the Congo basin —including habitats such as river rapids, deep rivers, streams, swamps and lakes— it is often divided into multiple ecoregions (instead of treating it as a single ecoregion). Among these ecoregions, the Lower Congo Rapids alone has more than 300 fish species, including approximately 80 endemics while the southwestern part (Kasai River, Kasai Basin) alone has more than 200 fish species, of which about a quarter are endemic.Freshwater Ecoregions of the World (2008).
Kasai.
'' Accessed 2 May 2011.
The dominant fish families – at least in parts of the river – are Cyprinidae (carp/cyprinids, such as ''Labeo simpsoni''), Mormyridae (elephantfishes), Alestidae (African tetras), Mochokidae (squeaker catfishes), and Cichlidae (cichlids).Freshwater Ecoregions of the World (2008).
Upper Lualaba.
'' Accessed 2 May 2011.
Among the natives in the river is the huge, highly carnivorous giant tigerfish. Three of the more unusual endemics are the whitish (non-Biological pigment, pigmented) and blind ''Lamprologus lethops'', which is believed to live as deep as below the surface, ''Heterochromis multidens'', which is more closely related to cichlids of the Americas than other African cichlids, and ''Caecobarbus geertsii'', the only known cavefish in Central Africa. There are also numerous endemic frogs and snails.Freshwater Ecoregions of the World (2008).
Lower Congo Rapids.
'' Accessed 2 May 2011.
Several hydroelectric dams are planned on the river, and these may lead to the extinction of many of the endemics. Several species of turtles, and the slender-snouted crocodile, slender-snouted, Nile crocodile, Nile and dwarf crocodile are native to the Congo River Basin. African manatees inhabit the lower parts of the river.


History


Exploration

The entire Congo basin is populated by Bantu peoples, divided into several hundred ethnic groups (see ethnic groups of the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Bantu expansion is estimated to have reached the Middle Congo by about 500 BC, and the Upper Congo by the first century AD. Remnants of the aboriginal population displaced by the Bantu migration, Pygmies/''Abatwa'' of the Ubangian languages, Ubangian phylum, remain in the remote forest areas of the Congo Basin. The
Kingdom of Kongo Kingdom may refer to: Monarchy * A type of monarchy A monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. Li ...
was formed around 1400 from a merging of the kingdoms of Mpemba Kasi & Mbata Kingdom on the left banks of the lower Congo River. Its territorial control along the river remained limited to what corresponds to the modern Bas-Congo province. European exploration of the Congo begins in 1482, when Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão discovered the river estuary (likely in August 1482), which he marked by a Padrão, or stone pillar (still existing, but only in fragments) erected on Shark Point. Cão also sailed up the river for a short distance, establishing contact with the Kingdom of Congo. The full course of the river remained unknown throughout the early modern period. The upper Congo basin runs west of the Albertine Rift. Its connection to the Congo was unknown until 1877. The extreme northeast of the Congo basin was reached by the Nilotic expansion at some point between the 15th and 18th centuries, by the ancestors of the Southern Luo speaking Alur people. Francisco de Lacerda following the Zambezi reached the uppermost part of the Congo basin (the Kazembe in the upper Luapula basin) in 1796. The upper Congo River, known as the Lualaba was first reached by the East African slave trade, Arab slave trade by the 19th century. Nyangwe was founded as a slavers' outpost around 1860. David Livingstone was the first European to reach Nyangwe in March 1871. Livingstone proposed to prove that the Lualaba connected to the
Nile The Nile, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin Nobiin, or Mahas, is a Northern Nubian languages, Nubian language of the Nilo-Saharan languages, Nilo-Saharan language family. "Nobiin" is the genitive case, genitive form of ''Nòòbíí'' ("Nubi ...

Nile
, but on 15 July, he witnessed a massacre of about 400 Africans by Arab slavers in Nyangwe, which experience left him too horrified and shattered to continue his mission to find the sources of the Nile, so he turned back to
Lake Tanganyika Lake Tanganyika is an African Great Lake. It is the second-oldest freshwater lake in the world, the second-largest by volume, and the second-deepest, in all cases after Lake Baikal in Siberia. It is the world's longest freshwater lake. The la ...

Lake Tanganyika
.Livingstone, David (2012). ''Livingstone's 1871 Field Diary. A Multispectral Critical Edition.'' UCLA Digital Library: Los Angeles, CA. Available See also Jeal, Tim (1973). ''Livingstone.'' New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Pp. 331–335. The middle reaches of the Congo remained unexplored from either the east or west, until Henry Morton Stanley's expedition of 1876–77. At the time one of the last open questions of the exploration of Africa (or indeed of the Age of exploration, world) whether the Lualaba River fed the
Nile The Nile, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin Nobiin, or Mahas, is a Northern Nubian languages, Nubian language of the Nilo-Saharan languages, Nilo-Saharan language family. "Nobiin" is the genitive case, genitive form of ''Nòòbíí'' ("Nubi ...

Nile
(Livingstone's theory), the Congo or even the Niger River, Niger. Financed in 1874, Henry Morton Stanley's first trans-Africa exploration, Stanley's first trans-Africa exploration started in Zanzibar, and reached the Lualaba on October 17, 1876. Overland he reached Nyangwe, the center of a lawless area containing cannibal tribes at which Tippu Tip based his trade in slaves. Stanley managed to hire a force from Tippu Tip, to guard him for the next or so, for 90 days. The party left Nyangwe overland through the dense Matimba forest. On November 19 they reached the Lualaba again. Since the going through the forest was so heavy, Tippu Tip turned around with his party on December 28, leaving Stanley on his own, with 143 people, including eight children and 16 women. They had 23 canoes. His first encounter with a local tribe was with the cannibal Wenya. In total Stanley would report 32 unfriendly meetings on the river, some violent, even though he attempted to negotiate a peaceful thoroughfare. But the tribes were wary as their only experience of outsiders was with slave traders. On January 6, 1877, after , they reached
Boyoma Falls Boyoma Falls, formerly known as Stanley Falls, is a series of seven Waterfall#Types, cataracts, each no more than high, extending over more than along a curve of the Lualaba River between the river port towns of Ubundu and Kisangani (also known as ...
(called Stanley Falls for some time after), consisting of seven cataracts spanning which they had to bypass overland. It took them to February 7 to reach the end of the falls. Here Stanley learned that the river was called ''Ikuta Yacongo'', proving to him that he had reached the Congo and that the Lualaba did not feed the Nile. From this point, the tribes were no longer cannibals, but possessed firearms, apparently as a result of Portuguese influence. Some four weeks and later he reached Stanley Pool (now
Pool Malebo The Pool Malebo, formerly Stanley Pool, also known as Mpumbu, Lake Nkunda or Lake Nkuna by local indigenous people in pre-colonial times, is a lake-like widening in the lower reaches of the Congo River The Congo River ( kg, Nzâdi Kôngo, frenc ...
), the site of the present day cities
Kinshasa Kinshasa (; ; ln, Kinsásá), formerly Léopoldville ( nl, Leopoldstad), is the Capital city, capital and the List of cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the largest city i ...

Kinshasa
and
Brazzaville Brazzaville (, kg, Kintamo, Nkuna, Kintambo, Mavula, Tandala; Teke languages, Teke: ''M'fa'', ''Mfwa'', ''Mfa'', ''Mfua'', ''Mfoa''Roman Adrian Cybriwsky, ''Capital Cities around the World: An Encyclopedia of Geography, History, and Culture'', A ...
. Further downstream were the
Livingstone Falls Image:Chutes Livingstone.jpg, 250px, The beginning of the Livingstone Falls near Kinshasa Livingstone Falls (French language, French: ''Chutes Livingstone''; Dutch language, Dutch: ''Livingstonewatervallen''), named for British explorer David ...

Livingstone Falls
, misnamed as Livingstone had never been on the Congo: a series of 32 falls and rapids with a fall of over . On 15 March they started the descent of the falls, which took five months and cost numerous lives. From the Isangile Falls, five falls from the foot, they beached the canoes and ''Lady Alice'' and left the river, aiming for the Portuguese outpost of Boma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Boma via land. On August 3 they reached the hamlet Nsada. From there Stanley sent four men with letters forward to Boma, asking for food for his starving people. On August 7 relief came, being sent by representatives from the Liverpool trading firm Hatton & Cookson. On August 9 they reached Boma, 1,001 days since leaving Zanzibar on November 12, 1874. The party then consisted of 108 people, including three children born during the trip. Most probably (Stanley's own publications give inconsistent figures), he lost 132 people through disease, hunger, drowning, killing and desertion.Jeal, 2007 p. 217.
Kinshasa Kinshasa (; ; ln, Kinsásá), formerly Léopoldville ( nl, Leopoldstad), is the Capital city, capital and the List of cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the largest city i ...

Kinshasa
was founded as a trading post by Henry Morton Stanley, Stanley in 1881 and named Léopoldville in honor of Leopold II of Belgium. The Congo basin was claimed by Leopold II as Congo Free State in 1885. The Congo basin is notable for the lack of bridges List of crossings of the Congo River, crossing the main rivers, although there are a number of ferries available for crossing the Congo river and the major
tributaries A tributary or affluent is a stream or river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its ...
. The main reasoning is the mere width of the Congo river and main rivers, and the second is the lack of funds to set up permanent river crossings.


Bridges on the Congo proper and Lualaba

There are only two bridges on the Congo river proper and main
tributaries A tributary or affluent is a stream or river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its ...
, which both are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DR Congo: * The Matadi Bridge, 148 km from the rivermouth, at the port of
Matadi Matadi is the chief sea port of the Democratic Republic of the Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ( french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC) ), also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo (french: RD Congo), the DROC, or simpl ...

Matadi
in the Kongo Central province. * The Kongolo Bridge on the
Lualaba River The Lualaba River flows entirely within the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the greatest River source, river source (headstream) of the Congo River by volume of water. The Lualaba is long. Its River source, headwaters are in the ...
, some 3,900 km along the tributary from the river mouth, near the town Kongolo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kongolo, in the eastern province Katanga Province, Katanga.


Bridges on the Uele and Kibali rivers

There is one bridge on the Uele River, and two on the Kibali River, which all lies in the northern province Haut-Uele of Democratic Republic of Congo, DR Congo: * The Niangara Bridge on the Uele, some 2,000 km along the tributary from the river mouth, near the town Niangara. * The Dungu Bridge on the Kibali, some 2,050 km along the tributary from the river mouth, near the town Dungu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dungu, at the
confluence In geography, a confluence (also: ''conflux'') occurs where two or more flowing bodies of water join together to form a single channel. A confluence can occur in several configurations: at the point where a tributary joins a larger river (main ...

confluence
of Dungu River, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dungu and Kibali River, Kibali rivers, where the Uele River, Uele river is formed. * The Kalimva Bridge on the Kibali, some 2,250 km along the tributary from the river mouth, near the town Kalimva, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kalimva.


Bridges on the Lulua river

There are at least four bridges on the Lulua River in the province of Kasai Province, Kasai of Democratic Republic of Congo, DR Congo: * Between the towns of Luebo and Tshimpumpu. * Near the town of Kananga. * At the town of Sanduwa. * West of the town of Diongo (also the location of a railway bridge on the Benguela Railway).


Bridges on the Kwango river

There is at least one bridge on the Kwango river in the province of Kwango Province, Kwango of Democratic Republic of Congo, DR Congo: * At the town of Cité Pont-Kwango.


Ferries in the Congo Basin


Ferries on the Congo proper

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Angola
– Democratic Republic of the Congo, DR Congo border: * None Lower Congo (
Matadi Matadi is the chief sea port of the Democratic Republic of the Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ( french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC) ), also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo (french: RD Congo), the DROC, or simpl ...

Matadi
– Pioka): * Mafuambo – Kinganga, some 200 km from the mouth. * Near Luozi, some 250 km from the mouth. Democratic Republic of the Congo, DR Congo – Republic of the Congo, Congo Republic border: *
Kinshasa Kinshasa (; ; ln, Kinsásá), formerly Léopoldville ( nl, Leopoldstad), is the Capital city, capital and the List of cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the largest city i ...

Kinshasa
Brazzaville Brazzaville (, kg, Kintamo, Nkuna, Kintambo, Mavula, Tandala; Teke languages, Teke: ''M'fa'', ''Mfwa'', ''Mfa'', ''Mfua'', ''Mfoa''Roman Adrian Cybriwsky, ''Capital Cities around the World: An Encyclopedia of Geography, History, and Culture'', A ...
, the ferry between the twin capitals – the busiest international ferry connection within
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous , after in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of 's total surface area and 20% of its land area.Sayre ...

Africa
. Upper Congo (Irebu – Ubundu): * Near Isangi, some 1250 km from the mouth. * At
Kisangani Kisangani (formerly Stanleyville or Stanleystad) is the capital of Tshopo province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the fifth most populous urban area in the country, with an estimated population of 1,261,000 in 2020, and the large ...

Kisangani
, some 1500 km from the mouth. * At Ubundu, some 1700 km from the mouth


Ferries on the Kasai River and tributaries

* At Bendela (city), Bendela on the Kasai River. * At Bandundu (city), Bandundu on the
Kwilu River The Kwilu River (or Quilo River) is a major river that originates in Angola , national_anthem = " Angola Avante"() , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Luanda , religion = , religion_year = 2015 , ...
. * South of Bandundu (city), Bandundu on the
Kwilu River The Kwilu River (or Quilo River) is a major river that originates in Angola , national_anthem = " Angola Avante"() , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Luanda , religion = , religion_year = 2015 , ...
. * At Loange on the Loange River.


Ferry on the Ubangi river

*Democratic Republic of the Congo, DR Congo – Central African Republic border: ** Zongo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zongo – Bangui


Ferry on the Mbomou river

*Democratic Republic of the Congo, DR Congo – Central African Republic border: ** Ndu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ndu – Bangassou


Ferries on the Lulua river

* Near the township of Tshinkenke, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tshinkenke, in the province of Kasai Province, Kasai in
DR Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo ( french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC) ), also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, the DRC, the DROC, or the Congo, and formerly Zaire Zaire (, ), officially the Republic of Zaire (french ...
. * Near the township of Mpungu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mpungu, in the province of Kasai Province, Kasai in
DR Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo ( french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC) ), also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, the DRC, the DROC, or the Congo, and formerly Zaire Zaire (, ), officially the Republic of Zaire (french ...
.


Ferries on the Uele river

* Uele river crossing at Bondo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bondo. * Uele river crossing at Malengoya. * Uele river crossing at Bambili. On the minor tributaries of the Congo there are numerous river crossings.


See also

* 2021 Congo River disaster *
Congo Basin The Congo Basin (french: Bassin du Congo) is the sedimentary basin of the Congo River. The Congo Basin is located in Central Africa, in a region known as west equatorial Africa. The Congo Basin region is sometimes known simply as the Congo. It con ...
* Congo river steamers * Hydrology transport model * Lake Chad replenishment project * Nile River * Portage railway


Citations


General sources

* Forbath, Peter (1979). ''The River Congo: The Discovery, Exploration and Exploitation of the World's Most Dramatic River''. New York: E. P. Dutton,. .


External links

* The Royal Geographical Society#Hidden Journeys, Royal Geography Society's Hidden Journeys project: *
The River Congo Basin
*
Audio slideshow: The River Congo: Following in Explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley's Footsteps
– Tim Butcher recounts his trip through the Congo on the route of 19th-century explorer Sir Henry Morgan Stanley.
Bibliography on Water Resources and International Law
Peace Palace Library
Map of the Congo River basin at Water Resources eAtlas


''American Museum of Natural History'' {{Authority control Congo River, Congo drainage basin, * Angola–Democratic Republic of the Congo border Border rivers Congolian forests Democratic Republic of the Congo–Republic of the Congo border International rivers of Africa Physiographic sections Rivers of Angola Rivers of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Rivers of the Republic of the Congo