List of rivers by age

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This is a selected list of the oldest rivers on Earth for which there is knowledge about their existence in past times.

Determination of age[edit]

Generally, the age is estimated based primarily upon the age of any mountains it dissects; the age of the sea or ocean to which it eventually outflows can be irrelevant; for example, several rivers of the east side of the Appalachian Mountains are thought to be older than the Atlantic Ocean into which they flow.[citation needed] If a river fully dissects a mountain range, then this generally indicates that the river existed at least at the time that the mountain range rose.

List of some of the world's oldest rivers[edit]

Continent color key
Africa Asia Australia Europe North America South America
River Age (Mya) Outflow Most significant criterion for the age
Finke 400~350 Lake Eyre
Predates the Alice Springs Orogeny; several other smaller rivers in the Northern Territory are of a similar age[1][2]
Meuse 340~320 North Sea Paleozoic, dissects the Ardennes during the Hercynian[3]
French Broad River 340~320 Tennessee River Dissects the Appalachian Mountains, formed by the Alleghenian orogeny, 320–340 ma. The New, Susquehanna, and French Broad are the only significant rivers that fully dissect the Appalachian core; the Hudson River is of more recent geologic origin.[4]
New 325~260 Kanawha River Dissects the Appalachian Mountains, formed by the Alleghenian orogeny, 320–340 ma[5]
Susquehanna 325~260 Chesapeake Bay Dissects the Appalachian Mountains, formed by the Alleghenian orogeny, 320–340 ma
Rhine 240 North Sea Triassic, possibly older if it dissected mountains uplifted during the Hercynian in addition to the Eocene with the Alps or the Miocene with the Upper Rhine Graben
Save 205 Indian Ocean Formed during rifting when Gondwana broke up[6]
Amur 125 Sea of Okhotsk Known to be at least Cretaceous in age, but crosses mountains even older[7]
Macleay 80 Tasman Sea Predates uplift of Great Escarpment[8]
Colorado 75 Gulf of California Uplift during Laramide orogeny, see Geology of the Grand Canyon area
Murrumbidgee 75 Murray River Predates uplift of Australian Alps[8]
Nile 75~65 Mediterranean Sea 65 to 75 for the Sudd section; the rest of the river is only 1 or 2 million years old[9]
Thames 58 North Sea Late Palaeocene Period Thanetian Stage[10]
45 Arabian Sea Source in the Himalayas and Karakoram Mountains[11]
Tyne 30 North Sea The Tyne began to carve its valley 30 MYA, by removing softer chalk rocks and exposing harder rocks.[12] Significantly predates the last Ice Age.
(Chang Jiang)
36.5~23 East China Sea Post-dates the Three Gorges formation (36.5 ma)[13][14]
Parramatta 29~15 Tasman Sea Formed between the late Oligocene and early Miocene period as its waters began to cut a valley into sandstone and shale, which were laid down some 200 million years earlier[15]
Columbia 17~6 Pacific Ocean Between 17 million and 6 million years ago, huge outpourings of flood basalt lava covered the Columbia River Plateau and forced the lower Columbia into its present course.[16]
Amazon 11.8~11.3 Atlantic Ocean Waters worked through the sandstone from the west and the Amazon began to flow eastward.[17] The river flowed through a former basin of a proto-Amazon, which flowed in the opposite direction at least as old as 65 Mya, long before the formation of Andes, when it originated in the highland area that formed when the South American and African plates separated.[18] This river may predate the break-up of western Gondwana as an extension of a proto-Congo river system, 200 Mya during the Jurassic.
Ohio 3~2.5 Mississippi River Formed when the Laurentide Ice Sheet dammed the north flowing Teays River during the Pre-Illinoian glaciation. The drainage area of the Teays could no longer drain to the north, and so instead drained to the south, forming the Ohio River.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wells AT, Forman DJ, Ranford LC, Cook PJ (1970). "Geology of the Amadeus Basin, Central Australia". Bureau of Mineral Resources, Australia, Bulletin. 100.
  2. ^ Haines PW, Hand M, Sandiford M (2001). "Palaeozoic synorogenic sedimentation in central and northern Australia: a review of distribution and timing with implications for the evolution of intracontinental orogens". Australian Journal of Earth Sciences. 48 (6): 911–928. Bibcode:2001AuJES..48..911H. doi:10.1046/j.1440-0952.2001.00909.x. S2CID 129946410. Abstract
  3. ^ Environmental History of the Rhine-Meuse Delta
  4. ^ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, Atlanta, GA, Record of Decision: Overview of Site (p. 14) Archived 2014-09-03 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Landscape evolution in Zimbabwe from the Permian to present, with implications for kimberlite prospecting. Moore, Cotterill, Broderick, Plowes. 2006, South African Journal of Geology.
  7. ^ Potter, Paul Edwin & Hamblin, W. Kenneth; “Big Rivers Worldwide” Archived 2013-07-08 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b Flannery, Tim; The Future Eaters; An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and Peoples; p. 78 ISBN 0802139434
  9. ^ "The River Nile Homepage". Archived from the original on 2007-06-14.
  10. ^ "History of the major rivers of southern Britain during the Tertiary". Quaternary Palaeoenvironments Group. 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-28.
  11. ^ Clift, Peter D.; Shimizu, N.; Layne, G.D.; Blusztajn, J.S.; Gaedicke, C.; Schlüter, H.-U.; Clark, M.K.; Amjad, S. (August 2001). "Development of the Indus Fan and its significance for the erosional history of the Western Himalaya and Karakoram". GSA Bulletin. 113 (8): 1039–1051. Bibcode:2001GSAB..113.1039C. doi:10.1130/0016-7606(2001)113<1039:DOTIFA>2.0.CO;2.
  12. ^ "History of the Tyne | Tyne Rivers Trust". Archived from the original on 2016-12-09. Retrieved 2016-12-03.
  13. ^ Hongbo Zheng, Pre-Miocene birth of the Yangtze River
  14. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica: Yangtze River
  15. ^ Hoskins, Ian (2015). "River Cycles - A History of the Parramatta River". Dictionary of Sydney. Dictionary of Sydney Trust. Retrieved 9 Feb 2021.
  16. ^ Bishop, Ellen Morris (2003). In Search of Ancient Oregon: A Geological and Natural History. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. ISBN 978-0-88192-789-4.
  17. ^ Figueiredo, J.; Hoorn, C.; van der Ven, P.; Soares, E. (2009). "Late Miocene onset of the Amazon River and the Amazon deep-sea fan: Evidence from the Foz do Amazonas Basin". Geology. 37 (7): 619–22. Bibcode:2009Geo....37..619F. doi:10.1130/g25567a.1. S2CID 70646688.
  18. ^ "A River Runs Backward".