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The Lualaba River flows entirely within the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the greatest river source (headstream) of the Congo River by volume of water. The Lualaba is 1,800 kilometres (1,100 mi) long. Its headwaters are in the country's far southeastern corner near Musofi and Lubumbashi in Katanga Province, next to Zambia. The Chambeshi River is the longest river source (headstream) of the Congo.
The origination of the Lualaba River is on the Katanga Plateau, at an elevation of 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) above sea level. Its total course flows northward to end near Kisangani, where the name Congo River officially begins.
From the Katanga Plateau it drops, with waterfalls and rapids marking the descent, to the Manika Plateau. As it descends through the upper Kamalondo Trough (Upemba Depression), 457 metres (1,499 ft) in 72 kilometres (45 mi), near Nzilo Falls it is dammed for hydroelectric power at Nzilo Dam.
Below Kongolo, the river becomes unnavigable as it enters the narrow gorge of Portes d'Enfer (Gates of Hell). Between Kasongo and Kibombo, the river is navigable for about 100 kilometres (62 mi), before rapids make it unnavigable again at Kindu-Port-Empain. The Boyoma Falls (Stanley Falls) are made up of seven cataracts, over a stretch of 100 kilometres (62 mi) of the river, between Ubundu and Kisangani. The river's end is marked after the seventh cataract, near Kisangani, where its name becomes the Congo River.
The largest tributaries of the Lualaba River (hence the Congo River), are the:
- Ulindi River
- Luama River
- Lukuga River — drains Lake Tanganyika.
- Lufira River
- Lubudi River
- Luvua River
- Elila River
Towns along and near the Lualaba River include:
- Ankoro —on west bank, opposite confluence with Luvua River.
- Kisangani — near the seventh cataract of Boyoma Falls.
- Ubundu — just above first cataract of Boyoma Falls.
The Lualaba River was once considered a possible source of the Nile, until Henry Morton Stanley journeyed down it and proved that it drained into the Atlantic Ocean. Stanley himself referred to it as the Livingstone. "Had not Livingstone spoken of the river at Nyangwe as the Lualaba, I should not have mentioned the word except as a corruption by the Waguha of the Wenya term Lu-al-ow-wa...":114,135
French colonial governor Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza also explored the Lualaba.
- Maria Petringa, Brazza, A Life for Africa. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006. ISBN 978-1-4259-1198-0Coordinates:
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