Red River (Asia)

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"Hong He", "Honghe", and "Song Hong" all redirect here. For other uses of those names, see Hong He (disambiguation) and Song Hong (disambiguation).
Red River (Sông Hồng (in Vietnam),
Yuanjiang (元江) or Hóng Hé (红河) (in China)
Sông Thao, Hồng Hà, Nhị Hà,
Nhĩ Hà, Sông Cái, Nguyên Giang
Gejiu - Red River Valley - P1370880.JPG
Red River in Yuanyang County/Gejiu City, Yunnan
Countries China, Vietnam
Provinces Yunnan Province (China), Lào Cai Province, Yên Bái Province, Phú Thọ Province, Hanoi, Vĩnh Phúc Province, Hưng Yên Province, Hà Nam Province, Thái Bình Province, Nam Định Province
 - left Nanxi,
 - right Đà
 - location Hengduan Mountains, Weishan, Dali, Yunnan, China
 - elevation 1,776 m (5,827 ft)
Secondary source
 - location TBD, Xiangyun, Dali, Yunnan, China
Source confluence
 - elevation 1,200 m (3,937 ft)
 - coordinates 25°1′49″N 100°48′56″E / 25.03028°N 100.81556°E / 25.03028; 100.81556
Mouth Ba Lạt
 - location (boundary between Tiền Hải and Giao Thủy)
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
 - coordinates 20°14′43″N 106°35′20″E / 20.24528°N 106.58889°E / 20.24528; 106.58889Coordinates: 20°14′43″N 106°35′20″E / 20.24528°N 106.58889°E / 20.24528; 106.58889
Length 1,149 km (714 mi)
Basin 143,700 km2 (55,483 sq mi)
Discharge mouth
 - average 2,640 m3/s (93,231 cu ft/s)
 - max 30,000 m3/s (1,059,440 cu ft/s)
 - min 700 m3/s (24,720 cu ft/s)
Discharge elsewhere (average)
 - Việt Trì 900 m3/s (31,783 cu ft/s)
Red River and its tributaries.
The reddish-brown heavily silt-laden water gives the river its name. View from bridge in Hanoi, Vietnam
Sunset over Red River, view from Long Bien Bridge, Hanoi, Vietnam

The Red River (simplified Chinese: 红河; traditional Chinese: 紅河; pinyin: Hóng Hé; Vietnamese: Sông Hồng), also known as the Hồng Hà and Sông Cái (lit. "Mother River") in Vietnamese[citation needed] and the Yuan River (元江, Yuán Jiāng) in Chinese, is a river that flows from Yunnan in Southwest China through northern Vietnam to the Gulf of Tonkin. According to C. Michael Hogan, the associated Red River Fault was instrumental in forming the entire South China Sea at least as early as 37 million years before present.


The Red River begins in China's Yunnan province in the mountains south of Dali. It flows generally southeastward, passing through Dai ethnic minority areas before leaving China through Yunnan's Honghe Autonomous Prefecture. It enters Vietnam at Lào Cai Province. It forms a portion of the international border between China and Vietnam. The river, known as Thao River for this upper stretch, continues its southeasterly course through northwestern Vietnam before emerging from the mountains to reach the midlands.[citation needed] Its main tributaries, the Black River (Da River) and Lô River join in to form the very broad Hồng near Việt Trì, Phu Tho Province. Downstream from Việt Trì, the river and its many distributaries spread out to form the Red River Delta. The Red River flows past the Vietnamese capital Hanoi before emptying into the Gulf of Tonkin.[citation needed]

The reddish-brown heavily silt-laden water gives the river its name. The red river has a reddish-brown tint to the river because of the silt. The Red River is notorious for its violent floods with its seasonally wide volume fluctuations. The delta is a major agricultural area of Vietnam with vast area devoted to rice. The land is protected by an elaborate network of dikes and levees.[citation needed]

The Black River and Lô River are the Red River's two chief tributaries.

As a travel and transportation route[edit]

In the 19th century, the Red River was thought to be a lucrative trade route to China. The late 19th-century French explorers were able to travel up the Red River until Manhao in South Yunnan, and then overland toward Kunming.[1]

The Red River remained the main commercial travel route between the French Indochina and Yunnan until the opening of the Kunming–Hai Phong Railway in 1910. The section of the river from Yên Bái downstream to the sea was navigable by steamship year-round, but during the dry season (November to April) steamers weren't able to go upstream of Yên Bái, and goods were moved by small vessels (junks).[2]

Thanks to the river, Hai Phong was in the early 20th century the sea port most easily accessible from Kunming. Still, the travel time between Hai Phong and Kunming was reckoned by the Western authorities at 28 days: it involved 16 days of travel by steamer and then a small boat up the Red River to Manhao (425 miles), and then 12 days overland (194 miles) to Kunming.[2]


A number of hydroelectric dams have been constructed on the Red River in Yunnan:[3]

Many more dams exist on the Red River's tributaries, both in Yunnan and in Vietnam.[3] One of the earliest of them is the Thác Bà Dam in Vietnam, constructed in 1972, which forms the Thác Bà Lake.[4]




The Red River, view from Long Biên Bridge, Hanoi, Vietnam

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bulletin of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia, 9–10, Geographical Society, 1912, pp. 18–20 
  2. ^ a b Whates, H. (1901), The Politician's Handbook, Vacher & Sons, p. 146 
  3. ^ a b Commissioned, Under Construction and Planned Dams in April 2016 (WLE Greater Mekong)
  4. ^ Xi Xi Lua, Chantha Oeurng, Thi Phuong Quynh Le, Duong Thi Thuy, Sediment budget as affected by construction of a sequence of dams in the lower Red River, Viet Nam, Geomorphology Volume 248, 1 November 2015, Pages 125–133

External links[edit]

Media related to Red River (Asia) at Wikimedia Commons