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Most people imagine rivers to be long meandering waterways flowing down faraway mountains, through the valleys and the plains until it reaches the ocean or a lake. Along its entire route, the river fertilizes the land allowing plants and crops to grow. Animals congregate around its banks, humans build towns and cities. Water from rivers are diverted for flood control, irrigation, power generation, drinking, and even waste disposal. This is true for many rivers on this planet. But there are also rivers that are so short that you could walk the entire length of it within a few minutes. You might argue that if a river is so small, it shouldn’t be called a river at all but a stream or a creek, which begs the question: what defines a river?

nile river

The Nile River in Egypt is the longest river in the world. Photo: Marcelo Alex/Shutterstock.com


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