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The Lualaba River is the greatest headstream of the Congo River by volume of water. However, by length the Chambeshi River is the farthest headstream. The Lualaba is 1800 km long, running from near Musofi in the vicinity of Lubumbashi in Katanga Province. The whole of its length lies within the Democratic Republic of Congo. It rises at an elevation of 1400 m above sea level and flows northwards to Kisangani, where the Congo River officially begins. The Lualaba River's source is on the Katanga Plateau; it then descends to the Manika Plateau, with waterfalls and rapids marking the descent. As it drops to the Kamalondo Trough (457 m in 72 km), it is harnessed for hydroelectric power at Nzilo Dam near Nzilo Falls. At Bukama the river becomes navigable for about 640 km through a series of marshy lakes (including Lake Upemba and Lake Kisale).
The river is joined from the east by the Luvua River opposite Ankoro. Some geographers call the combined stream below this point the "Upper Congo". Below Kongola, the river becomes unnavigable as it enters a narrow gorge, Portes d'Enfer. Between Kasongo and Kibombo, the river is navigable for about 100 km, before rapids make it unnavigable again at Kindu-Port-Empain. The river's end is marked by the Boyoma Falls, made up of seven cataracts over a stretch of 100 km between Ubundu and Kisangani.
The Lualaba was once considered a possibility for the source of the Nile, until Henry Morton Stanley journeyed down it and proved that it drained into the Atlantic Ocean. French colonial governor Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza also explored the Lualaba.
The largest tributaries of the Lualaba are
- the Ulindi River
- the Luama River
- the Lukuga River, which drains Lake Tanganyika
- the Lufira River
- the Lubudi River
- the Luvua River
- the Elila River
- Maria Petringa, Brazza, A Life for Africa. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006. ISBN 978-1-4259-1198-0Coordinates:
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