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The Shortest Rivers in The World

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

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, a river is “any natural stream of water that flows in a channel with defined banks.” But many rivers, continues the encyclopedia entry, are also “multichanneled, intermittent, or ephemeral in flow and channels that are practically bankless. The concept of channeled surface flow, however, remains central to the definition.”

All rivers form when water moves from a higher elevation to a lower elevation, entirely by gravity—as defined by the United States Geological Survey. The federal agency explains:

When rain falls on the land, it either seeps into the ground or becomes runoff, which flows downhill into rivers and lakes, on its journey towards the seas. In most landscapes the land is not perfectly flat—it slopes downhill in some direction. Flowing water finds its way downhill initially as small creeks. As small creeks flow downhill they merge to form larger streams and rivers. Rivers eventually end up flowing into the oceans.

The distinction between rivers, streams, and creeks, is thus, based entirely on size and is possibly subjective. Creeks are the smallest of the three, streams lie in the middle, and rivers are the largest. The definition is so vague that there are a lot of contenders to the title of “the shortest river in the world.” Let us look at some of them.

Tamborasi River

Tamborasi River

The Tamborasi River in Tamborasi, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, has a length of only 20 meters. The river rises from a fountain located in a rocky hill, crosses the narrow beach and empties into the Gulf of Boni. The water is turquoise green and it’s a popular spot among tourists.

Reprua River

Reprua River

The Reprua River, located on the outskirts of Gagra, in Abkhazia, Georgia, is slightly longer at 27 meters. The source of the Reprua River are springs in Krubera Cave, the second-deepest-known cave on Earth. The river flows in the Black Sea.

Ombla River

Ombla river

Photo: tartanparty/Shutterstock.com

The Ombla river, near Dubrovnik, Croatia, is only 30 meters long but has many characteristics of a true river. The river rises as a karst spring fed by groundwater inside a large cave at the foot of a 400-meter massif. The watercourse then flows for approximately 30 meters before reaching a weir across which the Ombla discharges into the Adriatic Sea. Despite having a short route, the Ombla river has a huge drainage basin of at least 600 square kilometers and up to 900 square kilometers between the Adriatic Sea coast in the area of Dubrovnik and Popovo Polje. More than 50,000 people live in this region. The Ombla river also supplies the residents of Dubrovnik with drinking water

Roe River

Roe River

Photo: bishib70/Flickr

The Roe River near Great Falls, Montana, is the shortest river in the United States. The Roe River runs from Giant Springs to the Missouri River—a distance of just 61 meters. For a while, the Guinness World Records recognized Roe as the world's shortest river. But it no longer does so.

Los Patos

Los Patos

The Los Patos, or the “duck river”, is located in the Barahona Province of the Dominican Republic, near the town of Paraíso. It is also 61 meters long making it among the shortest rivers in the world. The river is a popular fishing spot for the locals and a place to bath.

D River

 D River

Photo: Jess Kraft/Shutterstock.com

The D River in Lincoln City, Oregon, United States, flows from Devils Lake and into the Pacific Ocean. The course is just 130 meters.

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