The World’s 7 most Ancient Rivers

Finke   River                                                                                                                                 1

New  River                                                                                                                                   2

Meuse                                                                                                                                            3

French Broad  River                                                                                                                  4

Susquehanna River                                                                                                                   5

Colorado River                                                                                                                             6

Nile River                                                                                                                                         7

The process of determining the exact age of the river is quite a difficult job, and so many factors come into play. What scientists do is they test sediments and the surrounding rocks to find and calculate the exact age of the river. It’s quite a difficult job to be done. Due to this, there is a lot of debate over which rivers are the world’s oldest rivers. Depending on who you ask, the answer to that question will vary.

For this paper, we have list down 7 of the world’s oldest rivers whose ages have been researched. It is to be noted that at the time of writing, the age of the rivers is accurate. However, newer research can change its age. Overall, the oldest rivers in the world are over 300 million years old and formed during a time of high geological activity.

Following is the list:

1.                 Finke River

Age Over 300 to 340 million years old
Location National Territory and Northern South Australia, Australia
Length 750 km (466mi)
Outflow Lake Eyre (occasionally)

The Finke River, also called Larapinta by the Aboriginal People, in central Australia is believed to be the oldest river in Australia, as well as in the world. While this River’s exact age is unknown, it is believed that it’s at least over 300 million years old and some of the oldest parts of the river may be over 340 million years old. According to the Northern Territory Government (NTG), the Finke River has been on its present course for about 100 million years.

Finke River (2)The Finke River runs through central Australia’s Finke Gorge National Park and it is about 750 km (466 mi) long. Aboriginal legends say that the River was formed when the Rainbow Serpent shot out from Lake Erye.

2.     New River

Age 3 to 360 million years ago
Location Runs through North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, USA 
Length 320 mi (515 km)
Outflow Kanawha River

Kanawha RiverAlthough the New River is known to be as one of the oldest rivers in the world, estimates for its age range widely from as low as 3 million years to 360 million years on the upper end. The New River is often acknowledged as being the second oldest river in the world.

While its exact age is still unknown, the New River is responsible for carving out the New River Gorge, which has rocks that are over 310 million years old. The part of New River that is in West Virginia is designated as the New River Gorge National River. The New River is also one of the American Heritage Rivers.

3.     Meuse

Age 320 – 340 million years ago
Location Runs through France, Belgium, and the Netherlands
Length 950 Km
Outflow North Sea

Meuse1The Meuse river flows through parts of Belgium, France, and the Netherlands before reaching the North Sea. The Meuse dissects the Ardennes, which dates back to the era of Paleozoic, making the river over 300 million years old.

The wetlands around the Meuse are considered biodiversity hotspots, with many sensitive and rare species. Some of the rarest birds in the world live near this river, including the Corncrakes, whinchats, and Eurasian curlew, which are nearly extinct. Due to this diversity and being home to endangered species, the Meuse is a protected area.

4.     French Broad River

Age Over 300 million years ago
Location Runs through North Carolina and Tennessee, USA
Length 351 km
Outflow Tennessee

TennesseeThis River is closely associated with another old river on this list, the New River (#2) because both rivers flow through the Appalachian Mountains, which are estimated to be over 320 million years old. As the New River, the French Broad River is also considered to be one of the oldest rivers in the world and is often acknowledged to be the fourth oldest river, after the New River and the Nile/

The myth that the French Broad River is the fourth oldest river in the world still persists, despite evidence from scientists who say that they don’t know for sure if its the fourth oldest. Scientists do acknowledge that there is “a real possibility that the French Broad and New River, but not the Nile, are hundreds of millions of years old.” While this river might not be as old as people think, it’s true that this river flows from south to north instead of the north to south.

5.     Susquehanna River

Age Over 300 million years ago
Location Runs through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York
Length 747 km
Outflow Chesapeake Bay

Susquehanna RiverThe Susquehanna River is another older river in the US associated with the Appalachian Mountains. There are claims that the Susquehanna is either the second oldest or the oldest river in the world. But still, no one is dead sure about this.

In 2016, the Susquehanna River was listed among the America’s most endangered rivers, because of the negative impacts of Conowingo dam. The Dam has blocked fish, altered river flow, and affected the quality of water of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, which the river flows into.

6.     Colorado River

Age 7-70 million years old
Location Runs through Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California USA; Baja California and Sonora, Mexico
Length 2334 km
Outflow Gulf of California

Colorado RiverThis river is considered to be one of the most famous rivers in the world. It’s an important tourism spot and one of the most important in the Southwestern United States. You cannot talk about the Colorado River without also mentioning the Grand Canyon, which was formed by the Colorado River.

The age of both the Grand Canyon and Colorado River is closely linked. There has been a debate in the scientific community over just how old the Grand Canyon and the Grand Canyon really are. Scientists do know that the modern Colorado River formed about 6-7 million years ago, but the river’s ancestor first formed as early as 60-70 million years ago. While scientists disagree about the exact age of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, they do all believe that both formed within the last 70-80 million years after the sea left the area.

7.     Nile River

Age 65-75 million years ago
Location Runs through Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and Eritrea
Length 6853 km
Outflow Mediterranean Sea

The Nile River is known for being the longest river in the Africa (6,853 km) and is disputed as the longest river in the world. Brazilian government claims that the longest river is the Amazon River. Additionally, the Nile River is associated with some of the world’s first civilizations. However, the Nile River is significantly younger than the other rivers on this list, that is why it stands at the 7th spot. The Nile River is estimated to be at least 30-40 million years old and first started to form when the Mediterranean Sea started evaporating.

Nile RiverAlthough the Nile River flows through 11 countries, it is mostly associated with Egypt and the Ancient Egyptian Civilization, which was formed around 3000 BCE. Without this River, the Ancient Egyptians would have never become one of the greatest civilizations in history.


Leave a Comment