Do you know the longest rivers in America? If you’re here to learn more about these rivers, you’re in the right place.
The United States of America is a vast and rich land packed with natural resources and numerous attractions. It also boasts some of the world’s longest and most iconic rivers.
In this post, we’ll discuss the 15 longest rivers in the United States of America, how long they are, and some of the endangered rivers in America. Let’s dive in!
What Are Rivers?
A river implies a flowing stream of water that finds its way into a larger body of water. A river might flow into an ocean, and it does have clearly defined banks.
What do we mean by the term “longest rivers in America?”
The longest river in the United States implies the river with the longest width or length. It has more to do with the amount of land space the river occupies than the volume of water it discharges into the ocean or the larger body of water it flows into.
What Are The Benefits of Rivers In America?
Rivers are beneficial to Americans. They provide communities with cultural, economic, and ecological values. Roughly 3.5 million miles of rivers, and tributaries, connect us with the sea.
Here is what communities in America depend on streams and rivers for.
- Food – The water from rivers and streams helps irrigate crops and make food available for households.
- Clean water – Did you know that 60% of the water we consume comes from rivers?
- Transportation – Rivers transport a wide array of materials and food items. They transport grains, coal, ore, and materials imported from other parts of the world to the market.
- Electricity – Rivers are used for electricity generation, mainly hydroelectric power.
- Flood protection – Floodplains absorb colossal amounts of water whenever water rises, preventing damages in billions of dollars.
The 15 Longest Rivers In America
Here are the longest rivers in the United States of America, starting from the longest to the smallest in terms of length.
1: Missouri River – 2,341 Miles Long (The Longest River in America)
How long is the Missouri River? Firstly, this is the longest river in the United States of America. It measures 2,341 miles. It will interest you to know that this river flows through seven states.
Here is the list of states:
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
A Handy Tip: The Missouri River is the United States of America’s ninth-largest river by discharge. It’s the largest river in the land, though not as famous as the Mississippi River, which is almost the same size.
2: Mississippi River – 2,320 Miles Long (Second longest river in America)
The Mississippi and Missouri rivers are almost of the same length. While the Missouri River is 2,341 miles, the Mississippi is 2,320 miles.
Unlike the Missouri River, the Mississippi River flows through 10 different states. Here are the states:
So, the Mississippi River travels through the states above before it finally empties itself in the Gulf of Mexico.
This river holds a significant economic importance like every other river. It helped move people and materials. The river also served as an essential source of food and water.
3: Yukon River – 1,982 Miles (Third longest river in America)
The Yukon, a famous river traveling through the entire length and breadth of Alaska, is the third-largest river in the United States of America.
This river travels from Yukon and British Columbia straight into Alaska. Here, it runs across the state and drains into the Bering Sea.
Did you know the Yukon watershed is home to one of the longest salmon runs in America? This river also boasts a rich roster of species, such as moose, minks, wolverines, trumpeter swans, and bears.
4: Rio Grande – 1,885 Miles (Fourth largest river in America):
The Rio Grande, with its fertile valley and tributaries, is an important water source for several states in America and Mexico. It was designated a scenic and wild river in 1978.
The Rio Grande River’s source is the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado.
This river flows through Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico.
A Handy Tip: The Rio Grande is a little shallow. Its deepest portion is around 60 feet.
5: Arkansas River- 1,469 Miles (The fifth longest river in America):
The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the second-longest river in America, the Mississippi River. It flows east and southeast, traversing the states like Colorado, Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
Did you know the Arkansas River played a strategic role in the American Civil War? The Americans used this river to transport troops secretly.
Today, this river boasts a significant economic value to the country and state. It now serves as a great fishing destination.
6: Colorado River – 1,450 Miles (the sixth longest river in America)
By measurement, the Colorado River is the 6th longest river in the United States of America. This river helped with the carving of the Grand Canyon.
The Colorado River is among the principal rivers of the southwestern part of the United States. It flows through eleven national parks and monuments across the country.
The La Poudre Pass Lake is the source of the Colorado River. It is an important river in the country, serving as a source of power and water for the people in the area.
7: Red River – 1,360 Miles (Seventh longest river in America)
This saltwater river is among the longest in the country. The Red River of the South is the second-largest river in the southern Great Plains.
The Red River of the North also starts from the Bois de Sioux confluence, including the Otter Tail Rivers, on the Wahpeton and Breckenridge borders in North Dakota and Minnesota, respectively.
The Red River flows through various states, such as Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
8: Columbia River – 1,243 Miles (the eighth longest river in America).
The Columbia River is famous for its discharge into the Pacific Ocean. It is not the longest river in the country, but its discharge is the biggest of any river (265,000 cubic feet per second).
This Columbia River is a famous river and a food source for the indigenous people for years. It forms in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada.
This river travels northwest and then turns south into the United States of Washington. From there, it turns west to form some of the border between Oregon and Washington before it drains into the Pacific Ocean.
9: Snake River – 1,040 Miles
The Snake River is important in the greater Pacific Northwest region of the United States of America. It is the largest tributary of the Columbia River and largest North American river to drain its content into the Pacific Ocean.
Snake River is an important source of irrigation water for agriculture, including the spawning of salmon and power.
10: Ohio River- 981 Miles (the tenth longest river in America):
This river sustains numerous cities in the country, so it’s important. Its river travels through several states, such as West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.
This river plays a significant role in Ohio. It served as a state boundary and was used regularly for transportation purposes in the past.
A Handy Tip: The Ohio River flows into the second largest river in the United States of America, the Mississippi River.
11: Tennessee River – 935 Miles (the eleventh longest river in the United States of America)
The Tennessee River is 935 miles long and boasts numerous cities on its banks. It is popularly a large volume of water that passes through four states: Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Kentucky.
This river has been dammed multiple times and is a popular destination for recreational activities like riverboats.
12: Canadian River- 906 Miles
Here is another famous river in America whose name’s origin remains a mystery. The name will make many assume it is close to Canada, but nothing links this river with Canada.
The Canadian River is not even close to Canada. It doesn’t even flow through Canada. Instead, it flows through other states, such as New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado.
A Handy Tip: The Canadian River is not as busy as most of the rivers on this list in terms of visitors it receives. It is shallow and boasts a much lower discharge.
13: Colorado River of Texas – 862 Miles Long
The Colorado River of Texas boasts a confusing name. However, it flows through quite a large portion of the state, beginning from the northwest part. It then flows through the state straight into Austin, Texas, and drains into the Gulf of Mexico.
This river has a significant economic importance in the state. It serves as a water source for agriculture and power generation in the state.
A Handy Tip:
The name of this river isn’t from the state. Instead, it refers to a reddish color.
14: Brazos River – 840 Miles Long
This river boasts a captivating name, “Brazos,” which in Spanish means “God’s arm.” The river flows only through Texas and across much of the state.
Brazos River is an important recreational area in the state, but the water quality needs improving. But this doesn’t prevent it from being a popular destination for camping, fishing, and hunting.
15: Green River – 730 Miles Long
This river flows through three states:
It boasts numerous cities at its banks and passes through several rural areas. Examples include the Split Mountain Canyon.
This river is famous for being very deep, even though it’s the smallest in length. It is over 50 feet deep.
What River Is The Longest In America?
As it stands, the Missouri River is the apparent winner. It measures 2,341 miles, making it the longest in the country. However, most people think the length of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers is too close to name the Missouri River the longest in the land.
In most measurements, the difference in length between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers is around 1 mile. All the same, the Missouri is the longest river in the country, though it’s not as famous as the Mississippi River.
The Deepest River In America
The Hudson River is the deepest in the United States of America, reaching 200 feet at some point.
However, the St. Lawrence River, which flows in some parts of the country, is slightly deeper, reaching a maximum of 250 feet. But this river only flows along the border of the United States of America before entering Canada.
The Hudson River has both fresh and saltwater. Its headwater is found in Adirondack Park.
5 Longest Rivers In North America
North America, blessed with natural wonders and sprawling landscapes, features many gigantic rivers. These rivers serve not only as vital sources of resources but also as popular transportation routes.
Here, we’ll discuss the 5 longest rivers in North America. Let’s dive in.
1: Missouri River
The Missouri River isn’t just the longest river in America but throughout North America. It measures 2,341 miles long and flows through the heartland of America. The river flows through various states, such as Montana, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska.
This river features a roster of wildlife, such as river otters, paddlefish, and even white-tailed deer. It is a river of great economic importance to the country.
2: Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is behind the Missouri River in terms of length. In other words, it’s the second deepest river in the United States of America and North America as a whole.
This river stretches over 2,340 miles and flows through ten states:
The Mississippi River isn’t short of wildlife. It features several creatures, such as bald eagles, catfish, and even the American alligator. It is a significant river to the people of Mississippi and America.
All the longest rivers in North America can be found in America. Check the other rivers considered the longest in America.
3. Yukon River
4. Rio Grenade
5. Arkansas River
10 of America’s Most Endangered Rivers
A healthy river is essential for public safety and human health. When a river is sick, it might affect the health of those who use it.
Some of the rivers in America face significant threats caused by pollution, climate change, dams, and others. Below, we have highlighted the threats some of the rivers in the country are facing.
1: Colorado River in Arizona:
The threats facing this river include outdated water management and climate change. These issues must be addressed to mitigate the risk of damaging the possibility of reliable water delivery, ecosystem health, and regional economy.
2: Ohio River (Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois):
The primary threat of the Ohio River is pollution, which, if not addressed, could put access to clean water for over 5 million individuals at risk.
3: Pearl River in Mississippi:
The dam construction and dredging constitute a significant threat to the existence of this river. It is risking fish, wildlife habitat, and access to clean drinking water.
4: Snake River (Oregon, Idaho and Washington):
Dam construction poses a severe threat to the Snake River. It has endangered the river. The primary threat is the four federal dams.
If this issue isn’t addressed, it could endanger salmon runs and tribal treaty rights.
5: Clark Fork River in Montana
The pupil mill population in the Clark Fork River is a significant threat to the river. It could put fish and wildlife, including public health, at risk if not addressed.
6: Eel River in California:
The dams in this region are a significant threat to the Eel River. If not addressed, it could put fish and wildlife at risk.
Other rivers considered endangered include:
7: Rio Gallinas in New Mexico
8: Lehigh River in Pennsylvania
9: Okefenokee Swamp (Florida and Georgia)
10: Chilkat and Klehini Rivers in Alaska
So, these are the 15 longest rivers in America, home to incredible sources of fish and wildlife. This list comprised the longest to the smallest rivers in America.
The Missouri is the longest river in the United States of America, followed by the Mississippi River. The smallest river is the Green River, measuring 730 miles long.
We also provided a list of rivers in America considered endangered. You can check the list and see how human activities endanger rivers and public health.