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]

The age of a river is difficult to determine. 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 older than the existence of the Atlantic Ocean, which did not exist 130 million years ago.[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 Oceania Europe North America South America
River Age (Mya) Outflow Most significant criterion for the age
Finke 350–400 Lake Eyre
Predates the Alice Springs Orogeny; several other smaller rivers in the Northern Territory are of a similar age[1][2]
Meuse 320 to 340 North Sea Paleozoic, dissects the Ardennes during the Hercynian[3]
New 260 to 325 Kanawha River Dissects the Appalachian Mountains, formed by the Alleghenian orogeny, 320–340 ma [4]
Susquehanna 260 to 325 Chesapeake Bay Dissects the Appalachian Mountains, formed by the Alleghenian orogeny, 320–340 ma [5]
French Broad 260 to 325 Tennessee River Dissects the Appalachian Mountains, formed by the Alleghenian orogeny, 320–340 ma. The New, Susquehanna, French Broad are the only significant rivers that fully dissect the Appalachian core; the Hudson River is of more recent geologic origin.[6]
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.[7]
Amazon 200 Atlantic Ocean Jurassic, but it seems to have flowed in the opposite direction as an extension of the Congo, i.e. long before the formation of Andes
Amur 125 Sea of Okhotsk Known to be at least Cretaceous in age, but crosses mountains even older[8]
Macleay 80 Tasman Sea Predates uplift of Great Escarpment[9]
Murrumbidgee 75 Murray River Predates uplift of Australian Alps[9]
Colorado 75 Gulf of California Uplift during Laramide orogeny, see Geology of the Grand Canyon area
Nile 65 to 75 Mediterranean Sea 65 to 75 for the Sudd section; the rest of the river is only 1 or 2 million years old [10]
Thames 58 North Sea Late Palaeocene Period Thanetian Stage.[11]
45 Arabian Sea Source in the Himalayas and Karakoram Mountains[12]
Tyne 30 North Sea The Tyne, 30 MYA began to carve its valley, by removing softer chalk rocks and exposing harder rocks.[13] Significantly predates the last Ice Age.
(Chang Jiang)
23 to 36.5 East China Sea Post-dates the Three Gorges formation (36.5 ma) [14][15]

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. doi:10.1046/j.1440-0952.2001.00909.x.  Abstract
  3. ^ Environmental History of the Rhine-Meuse Delta
  5. ^ Clearwaters, Spring 2009, Historical Look at the Susquehanna River Watershed
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Landscape evolution in Zimbabwe from the Permian to present, with implications for kimberlite prospecting. Moore, Cotterill, Broderick, Plowes. 2006, South African Journal of Geology.
  8. ^ Potter, Paul Edwin & Hamblin, W. Kenneth; “Big Rivers Worldwide” Archived 2013-07-08 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ a b Flannery, Tim; The Future Eaters; An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and Peoples; p. 78 ISBN 0802139434
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ "History of the major rivers of southern Britain during the Tertiary". Quaternary Palaeoenvironments Group. 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  12. ^ 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. doi:10.1130/0016-7606(2001)113<1039:DOTIFA>2.0.CO;2. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Hongbo Zheng, Pre-Miocene birth of the Yangtze River
  15. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica: Yangtze River