Livingstone Falls

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Not to be confused with Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia.
The beginning of the Livingstone Falls near Kinshasa
A cataract of Inga Falls, the most spectacular part of the rapids

Livingstone Falls (French, Chutes Livingstone) — named for the explorer David Livingstone — are a succession of enormous rapids on the lower course of the Congo River in west equatorial Africa, downstream from Malebo Pool in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Livingstone Falls consist of a series of rapids dropping 900 feet in 220 miles (270 metres in 350 km). They end in Matadi in Bas-Congo. The Congo River has the second largest flow rate in the world after the Amazon, which has no falls or rapids (except near its sources). The lowest rapids of Livingstone Falls, therefore, are the world's largest waterfall in terms of flow rate — provided one accepts these rapids as being a waterfall. An interesting aspect of the 220-mile (350 km) long Livingstone Falls is the width of the channel. The channel is very narrow: in several stretches the channel width is less than 300 metres and for the majority of the length the channel is less than 800 metres wide. This is an extraordinarily narrow channel since the river flow rate typically exceeds 42,000 cubic metres per second (1,500,000 cu ft/s).


Although he explored the upper Congo, Livingstone never travelled to this part of the river and the Falls were named in his honour by Henry Morton Stanley.

Since the falls, which start with the Yellala Falls just above Matadi, are a barrier to navigation on the lower part of the river, the Matadi-Kinshasa Railway was constructed to by-pass them.

On an expedition known as 'Africa-Raft', Philippe de Dieuleveult and six members of his party disappeared during a descent of these rapids around Inga Falls on August 6, 1985.

"Grand Inga" proposed hydroelectric project[edit]

Main article: Grand Inga

Inga Falls on Congo River is a group of rapids (or cataracts) in the latter portion of the Livingstone Falls. The Congo falls ~96 metres within this set of cataracts. The mean annual flow rate of the Congo River at Inga Falls is ~42,000 cubic metres per second. Given this flow rate and the 96 metre fall, it is possible to calculate that the Inga Falls alone has a potential to generate ~39.6 GW of mechanical energy and nearly as much electrical energy.

In 2014, Inga Falls was the site of two large hydro-electric power plants and is being considered for a much larger hydro-electric power generating station known as Grand Inga. The Grand Inga project, if completed, would be the largest hydro-electric power generating facility on Earth. The current project scope calls for the use of a flow rate ~26,400 cubic metres per second at a net head of ~150 metres; this is equivalent to a generating capacity of ~38.9 GW. This hydro-electric generator would be more than double the current world record holder, which is the Three Gorges facility on the Yangtze River in China.

Coordinates: 4°19′19″S 15°12′28″E / 4.32194°S 15.20778°E / -4.32194; 15.20778