The Aras rises near Erzurum, Turkey. It meets with the Akhurian River southeast of Digor, flows along the Turkish-Armenian border, and then near a corridor that connects Turkey to Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan exclave. It then flows along the Iranian-Azerbaijan and the Iranian-Armenian border. The river then flows along the border between Iran and the main territory of the Azerbaijan to meet with the Kura River at the village of Sabirabad. It then directly flows into the Caspian Sea. About 101,937 square kilometres (39,358 sq mi) of the Araz River basin is in Azerbaijan.
The Zangmar, Sariso, Ghotour River, Hajilar River, Kalibar River, Ilghena River, Darreh River and Balha River are the major tributaries of the Aras from the south (right). In Turkey the Ghareso river flows in on the left side. The Akhurian, Metsamor, Hrazdan, Azat, Vedi, Arpa, Vorotan, Voghdji and Megri rivers flow in from the Armenian north side (left). The Khachin River, Okhchi River, Kuri River and Kandlan River flow in from the Azerbaijan north side (left).
In Armenian tradition, the river is named after Arast, a great-grandson of the legendary Armenian patriarch Haik. See Erasx for the etymology. The name was later Hellenized to Araxes and was applied to the Kura-Araxes culture, a prehistoric people which flourished in the valleys of the Kura and Aras. But many times it is the Volga River which is called Araxes especially in Herodotus' History 1.202. The river is also mentioned in the last chapter of the Aeneid VIII by Virgil, as "angry at the bridge", since the Romans built a bridge over it,so that it is thereby conquered. By some, the river Aras has been associated with the otherwise unidentified Gihon and Pishon rivers mentioned in the second chapter of the Bible.
In 2006, a bird research and education center was established by KuzeyDoğa, a Turkish non-governmental organization for nature conservation, in the Aras Valley at Yukarı Çıyrıklı village in Tuzluca district of Iğdır Province, Turkey. It is one of Turkey's two yearly active bird ringing stations. Between 2006 and 2014, more than 60,000 birds of 198 species were ringed and 258 bird species were observed at this station. Fifty-five percent of the 471 bird species found in Turkey are recorded at this wetland, making it eastern Turkey's richest wetland for birds. The number of ringed and observed 258 bird species comprises 85 percent of the 303 bird species at Iğdır Province. Seven new bird species were observed during the bird ringing activities in 2012 alone, including the raptorShikra or Little Banded Goshawk (Accipiter badius), which was new to Turkey's avifauna.
University of Utah biology professor Çağan Şekercioğlu, president of the KuzeyDoğa Society, appealed to the Ministry of Forest and Water Management to drop the Tuzluca Dam project, which would destroy the wetland harboring bird wildlife at Aras Valley. In 2013, the ministry decided that the site deserves highest level of conservation status (Nature Conservation Area), but the same ministry has still not canceled its plans to build the dam that would destroy this site nature reserve. KuzeyDoga started the www.savearas.org campaign which has gathered over 17,500 signatures.
^Bauer-Manndorff, Elisabeth (1981). Armenia: Past and Present. Armenian Prelacy. p. 49. ASINB0006EXQ9C.
^"Calumet, A. D. 1672–1757, Rosebmuller, 1768–1835, Kell, 1807–1888, and some other scholars believed the source river [for Eden] was a region of springs. The Pishon and Gihon were mountain streams. The former may have been the Phasis or Araxes, and the latter the Oxus." Duncan, George S. (October 1929) "The Birthplace of Man" The Scientific Monthly 29(4): pp. 359-362, p. 360