The Yangtze River in China.
    • The Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia, stretching for 3,915 miles.
    • The Mekong River crosses through many borders passing through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
    • The Yellow River, Asia's second longest, plays an important role in improving the ecological environment of the areas it passes through.

    Since ancient times, rivers have played a crucial role in the development of human society. These rushing streams of water bring with them the element necessary to grow crops while also providing a supply of relatively clean drinking water. Even technological advancements have moved us beyond the need to build cities near water sources, rivers and waterways still continue to be a critical part of major societal institutions, from the production of electricity to access to food sources.

    Asia is a massive continent with rivers interlinking all over its sizable landmass. Historically, its major rivers have played an essential role in providing freshwater, fertile soil, food, and transportation to people many generations past. Even now, the benefits of good land to farm, transportation, and potential energy gathered from watermills still act as an incentive to live near rivers. Plus, rivers continue to house some of the most diverse and endangered wildlife on Earth. Their unique habitat allows for rare plants and animals to take root. And in some areas, the rivers continue to play an important role in people's livelihoods, particularly those of fishers living off the land. From a more ecological perspective, rivers carry water and nutrients and drain surface water. Suffice it to say, rivers are important for many reasons. Here are some of the largest waterways in Asia.

    Map of Asia's longest rivers.


    1. Yangtze River - 3,915 miles
    2. Yellow River - 3,395 miles

    3. Mekong River - 3,050 miles

    4. Lena River - 2,668 miles

    5. Irtysh River - 2,640 miles

    6. Brahmaputra River - 2,391 miles

    7. Ob River - 2,268 miles

    8. Indus River - 2,243 miles 

    9. Yenisei River - 2,167 miles

    10. Nizhnyaya Tunguska River - 1,857 miles

    1. Yangtze River - 3,915 miles

    Yangtze River, China. Image credit: Daniel Doerfler/Shutterstock

    The Yangtze is the largest river in Asia and the third-longest in the world, with a whopping 3,915 miles (6,300 km) of length. It starts in the Plateau of Tibet before moving through 11 provinces to get to the East China Sea. In fact, it also serves as the border for several of these provinces. Most of the river is hard to see as over 75% of it runs through the mountains.

    2. Yellow River - 3,395 miles

    Yellow River, China. Image credit: Ian Winslow/Shutterstock

    The Yellow River, also called Huang He, is also in China. It is 3,395 miles (5,464 km) long and starts in the Qinghai province. From there it crosses over six other provinces as well as two autonomous regions to get to the Gulf of Chihli, also called Bo Hai, which is an embayment of the Yellow Sea, itself a part of the North Pacific ocean. Its turbulent dangerous waters have given it the names "China's Sorrow" and "The Ungovernable."

    3. Mekong River - 3,050 miles

    Mekong River, border of Thailand and Laos. Image credit: Nakornthai/Shutterstock

    The Mekong River crosses through many borders, going from southeastern China through Tibet and Yunnan province to Myanmar, Laos , Thailand, Cambodia, then finally to Vietnam and draining into the South China Sea. It comprises part of the border between Myanmar and Laos, and Laos and Thailand. It's the longest Southeast Asian river, coming in at 3,050 miles (4,909 km). Its name varies from country to country, but it is most recognized outside of Asia by its Chinese name.

    4. Lena River - 2,668 miles

    Lena River, Russia. Image credit: FotoSovushka/Shutterstock

    Lena River is found entirely within the borders of Russia and has a total length of 2,668 miles (4,294 km). It is located in the north and is found in an area with plentiful wildlife and natural resources, like gold. The river starts in the Baikal range, slightly east of the Baikal Lake itself, and flows mainly through the Russian Republic of Sakha, eventually joining the Yenisei River before going in a large arc up to the Laptev Sea which is part of the Arctic Ocean, where it ends.

    5. Irtysh River - 2,640 miles

    Irtysh River, Russia. Image credit: Aleksander Karpenko/Shutterstock

    The fifth-longest waterway in Asia is the Irtysh River. It originates from glaciers on the Altai Mountains of Xinjiang province in China, right on the border with Mongolia, before passing westward across the northern corner of the Chinese territory and through Kazakhstan, where it flows northwest in the Eastern tip of the country and is known as the Ertis River. It then crosses into Russia before eventually making its way to the Ob River in western Siberia. It comes in at a sizable length of 2,640 miles (4,248 km).

    6. Brahmaputra River - 2,391 miles

    Brahmaputra River Tibet, China. Image credit: Meiqianbao/Shutterstock

    Brahmaputra River goes through the countries of China, India, and Bangladesh over the course of 2,391 miles (3,848 km). It flows towards the east through the Tibet Autonomous Region of China from its source in the Himalayas then into India to an intersection with the smaller Gange river. From there, the shared stream empties out in the Bay of Bengal. In the course of its journey, it passes through Assam and Bangladesh.

    7. Ob River - 2,268 miles

    Ob River, Russia. Image credit: Starover Sibiriak/Shutterstock

    Ob River is 2,268 miles (3,650 km) long and is entirely located within Russia, specifically the central portion. It flows north and west across western Siberia in a corkscrew diagonally down from its head in the Altai Mountains on the border with Kazakhstan, all the way to the Gulf of Ob before going northward into the Arctic Ocean. Its a key transportation route and has a lot of economic potential.

    8. Indus River - 2,243 miles 

    Indus River, India. Image credit: Rathnan PV/Shutterstock

    The Indus River is the next one on this list, coming in at 2,243 miles (3,610 km) and going through three countries: China, India, and Pakistan. It is the biggest and most critical river in Pakistan and it has twenty major tributaries. It starts from the Tibetan plateau near Lake Mansarovar and the Himalayas, runs through the Indian territories Jammu and Kashmir, then flows south through the entire country of Pakistan before ending in the Arabian Sea, a part of the Indian Ocean. 

    9. Yenisei River - 2,167 miles

    Yenisei River, Siberia, Russia. Image credit: Valerii_M/Shutterstock

    The Yenisei River goes through Mongolia and Russia and stretches on for 2,167 miles (3,487 km). It is the greatest river system flowing to the Arctic ocean and its course rises in northern Mongolia and goes north through Russia to the Kara Sea. Its upper reaches are sparsely populated as they are prone to rapids and flooding. The middle section, meanwhile, is controlled by a series of large hydroelectric dams.

    10. Nizhnyaya Tunguska River - 1,857 miles

    Nizhnyaya Tunguska River, Russia. Image credit: Laura Diemer/Shutterstock

    The Nizhnyaya Tunguska River runs through Russia and spans 1,857 miles (2,989 km). The river itself is located in western Siberia and flows east off the of the Yenisei River as one of its major tributaries, through the province of Irkutsk province and the Krasnoyarsk region. Parts of the river have a broad valley with numerous sandbanks, and other parts are filled with gorges and rapids. 

    Climate Change and Pollution 

    Unfortunately, as is the case with all other natural environments dealing with the encroaching of human civilizaion, the rivers of Asia are not immune to the effects of climate change and pollution. Considering the drastic effects of higher carbon emissions and the ever-increasing pile of human garbage, it makes sense that these major rivers in Asia deal with damaging consequences to their biodiversity.

    Climate change and its subsequent increases in temperature will likely intensify the melting of Central Asian glaciers, causing an initial bump in water, but in the long run leading the decreased runoff of rivers. River runoffs refer to all the water that comes into the river system. Runoff cycles will also shift their peak to the early months of the year, leading to decreased flow in the summer months, which potentially could impact local agriculture. Overall the amount of water will decrease, which in combination with heatwaves and monsoons, could make it hard for people the many people in Asia who rely on rivers to subsist.

    Many rivers in the region are also already highly polluted with domestic, industrial, and agricultural waste, to the point where the water quality has reached unsafe levels. Some rivers even have mercury levels 100 times more than the legal amount. This has partially happened due to rapid economic development and urbanization, so pollution is likely to continue unabated.  

    It is clear that more must be done to protect the rivers of Asia, but this will not be easy and will likely take global coordination. Only time will tell if that's possible.

    The Longest Rivers Of Asia

    Rank River Country/countries through which it flows Length (km) Length (miles) 1 Yangtze China 6,300 3,915 2 Yellow River China 5,464 3,395 3 Mekong China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam 4,909 3,050 4 Lena River Russia 4,294 2,668 5 Irtysh River Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan, Russia 4,248 2,640 6 Brahmaputra River China, India, Bangladesh 3,848 2,391 7 Ob River Russia 3,650 2,268 8 Indus River China, India, Pakistan 3,610 2,243 9 Yenisei River Mongolia, Russia 3,487 2,167 10 Nizhnyaya Tunguska River Russia 2,989 1,857 11 Yarlung Tsangpo River China, India, Bangladesh 2,840 1,765 12 Amur River Russia, China 2,824 1,755 13 Salween River China, Myanmar, Thailand 2,800 1,740 14 Euphrates Iraq, Syria, Turkey 2,760 1,715 15 Vilyuy River Russia 2,650 1,647 16 Ganges India, Bangladesh 2,510 1,560 17 Amu Darya Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan 2,500 1,553 18 Ishim River Kazakhstan, Russia 2,450 1,522 19 Ural River Kazakhstan, Russia 2,428 1,509 20 Pearl River China, Vietnam 2,320 1,442 21 Aldan River Russia 2,273 1,412 22 Olenyok River Russia 2,270 1,411 23 Syr Darya Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan 2,212 1,374 24 Irrawaddy River Myanmar 2,210 1,373 25 Xi River China, Vietnam 2,197 1,365 26 Kolyma River Russia 2,129 1,323 27 Songhua River China 1,925 1,196 28 Podkamennaya Tunguska River Russia 1,865 1,159 29 Tigris Turkey, Syria, Iraq 1,850 1,150 30 Vitim River Russia 1,837 1,141 31 Kama River Russia 1,805 1,122 32 Chulym River Russia 1,799 1,118 33 Angara River Russia 1,779 1,105 34 Indigirka River Russia 1,726 1,072 35 Ket River Russia 1,621 1,007 36 Argun River China, Russia 1,620 1,007 37 Tobol River Russia 1,591 989 38 Yalong River China 1,571 976 39 Han River China 1,532 952 40 Alazeya River Russia 1,520 944 41 Godavari River India 1,465 910 42 Amga River Russia 1,462 908 43 Ili River Kazakhstan, China 1,439 894 44 Olyokma River Russia 1,436 892 45 Taz River Russia 1,401 871 46 Sutlej China, India, Pakistan 1,400 870 47 Liao River China 1,390 864 48 Yamuna India 1,376 855 49 Kura Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan 1,364 848 50 Hai River China 1,329 826 51 Tarim River China 1,321 821 52 Narmada River India 1,300 808 53 Krishna River India 1,290 802 54 Zeya River Russia 1,210 752 55 Chuna River Russia 1,203 748 56 Red River China, Vietnam 1,200 746 57 Jialing River China 1,190 739 58 Kızılırmak River Turkey 1,182 734 59 Markha River Russia 1,181 734 60 Nen River China 1,170 727 61 Demyanka River Russia 1,159 720 62 Anadyr River Russia 1,150 715 63 Hari Afghanistan, Turkmenistan 1,150 715 64 Helmand River Afghanistan, Iran 1,150 715 65 Kapuas River Indonesia 1,143 710 66 Omolon River Russia 1,114 692 67 Huai River China 1,100 684 68 Wu River China 1,100 684 69 Konda River Russia 1,097 682 70 Tyung River Russia 1,092 679 71 Kherlen River Mongolia, China 1,090 677 72 Vasyugan River Russia 1,082 672 73 Ghaghara China, Nepal, India 1,080 671 74 Aras Turkey, Armenia, Iran, Azerbaijan 1,072 666 75 Chu River Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan 1,067 663 76 Bolshoy Yugan River Russia 1,063 661 77 Maya River Russia 1,053 654 78 Tura River Russia 1,030 640 79 Biryusa River Russia 1,012 629
    1. Home
    2. World Geography
    3. The Longest Rivers Of Asia
    What is the longest river in Central Asia and which countries does it border?
    Amu Darya basin The Amu Darya is the longest river in Central Asia and the second longest in Afghanistan. Six countries share the river Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. more
    Is Central Asia safe?
    Central Asia is generally a safe part of the world to visit, but there are pockets of the region that may be unstable and unsafe to visit during certain times, so always keep an eye on the news and your country's foreign advisory to keep abreast of the latest happenings. more
    What language does Central Asia speak?
    The five big ethnic groups in Central Asia are the Uzbek, Kazakh, Tajik, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz. Linguistically all of these groups, with the exception of the Tajiks whose language is more similar to modern-day Persian, speak languages that are from Turkic language family and resemble Turkish. more
    Is Central Asia beautiful?
    With its beautiful scenery, incredible architecture, fascinating history and epic journeys along ancient silk routes, Central Asia has something for everyone. The hardest thing can be choosing which of the diverse countries to visit. more
    Is Afghanistan in Central Asia or South Asia?
    The Short Answer. The short answer is no, Afghanistan is not in the Middle-East. Afghanistan is most commonly referred to as being a part of the region of Central Asia; a group of countries that occupies the area between China, India, Russia and Iran. more
    Is Afghanistan in Central Asia?
    Central Asia is a subregion of Asia that stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afghanistan and Iran in the south to Russia in the north. The region consists of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. more
    Why should I visit Central Asia?
    The land in between is unlike anywhere else in the world. Home to spectacular scenery, traditional cultures and historic cities mixed with modern metropolises, the region is beginning to realise its potential as a destination for travellers looking to get off the beaten track. more
    Is Turkey in Central Asia?
    The First regional competition among the Central Asian countries, Russia, Chinese Xinjiang and Turkey was held in 2013. more
    Is English spoken in Central Asia?
    At the moment English is not much spread in Central Asia, but the western influence and the interest in the English language, mainly among young people, increase. more
    Who conquered Central Asia?
    Russians also began to take over gradually Central Asia during this period. By the 19th century, Central Asia was completely taken over by Russia. In 1868, the Russians moved into Tashkent and made the city their capital in Central Asia. China moved into the region of Xinjiang even earlier in 1760s. more
    Can Americans travel to Central Asia?
    Central Asia is generally a safe part of the world to visit, but there are pockets of the region that may be unstable and unsafe to visit during certain times, so always keep an eye on the news and your country's foreign advisory to keep abreast of the latest happenings. more


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