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Navigable Rivers & Inland Waterway Systems

World Port Source has added information about the world's waterways and the ports that line their banks and shores. Today we begin our new section with the top seven river systems in the world.

Mississippi River System Mississippi River System

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The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America, extending about 2,320 miles (3,730 km). The river is navigable from Minneapolis, near its headwaters in Minnesota, to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.

The river system extends west to Tulsa, Oklahoma on a branch of the Arkansas River, and east to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on the Ohio River.

The Mississippi River System is connected to the Mobile Bay River System via the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway at Yellow Creek State Inland Port in Iuka, Mississippi.

Near its northern limits, the Mississippi River System connects to Lake Michigan by way of the Illinois and Chicago Rivers.

Great Lakes & Saint Lawrence Seaway Great Lakes & Saint Lawrence Seaway

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With their rich natural resources of iron ore, coal, grain and timber, each of the Great Lakes – Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Superior – is a major waterway in its own right.

The Saint Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 with the completion of the Welland Canal to bypass Niagara Falls and seven new locks on the St. Lawrence River. This work transformed the Great Lakes into an ocean accessible waterway where "salties" can now reach the freshwater Port of Duluth in Minnesota.

Yangtze River System Yangtze River System

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The Yangtze is the longest river in Asia, 3,988 miles (6.418 km) from glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau to the Port of Shanghai on the East China Sea.

From Yibin, Sichuan Province, in the east, the Yangtze travels across the middle of China where it is joined by the Han, Xiang and Gan Rivers.

The Yangtze River Delta region has one of the highest density of ports in the world and generates as much as 20% of China's GDP.

The Grand Canal of China links the Yangtze to the Yellow River.

Rhine and Danube River Systems

Rhine River System:   Port Index  —  Port Map Danube River System:   Port Index  —  Port Map

The Rhine and Danube River Systems have provided water transportation since the Roman Empire. Flowing north, the Rhine runs from the eastern Swiss Alps to the North Sea. From its origins in the Black Forest region of Germany, the Danube flows southeast to the Black Sea.

The Rhine River System allows modern waterborne transportation in Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland. The Danube River provides ship and barge transportation to Austria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and the Slovak Republic.

The Rhine-Main-Danube Canal connects the Danube at Port of Kelheim to the Main River, a tributary of the Rhine, at Port of Bamberg.

Rhine River System Danube River System

Volga River System Volga River System

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The Volga River System is Russia's primary river and canal network, covering much of the western part of the country.

In the north, the Volga-Baltic Waterway connects the Volga to Port of St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea.

The Volga River discharges into the Caspian Sea, the largest lake on earth. The Volga-Don Canal provides an alternative exit on the Don River to the Black Sea Region.

This important connection between the Volga River and Black Sea allows ship traffic from Baku, Azerbaijan, and other ports on the landlocked Caspian Sea to reach the Mediterranean Sea and beyond.

Rio de la Plata River System Rio de la Plata River System

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While the Amazon is the most famous South American river system, the Rio de la Plata River System is more developed and supports a much larger population, including Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The Uruguay River defines the eastern border of Uruguay and is navigable as far north as Port of Salto.

The Parana River travels north through the ports of San Nicolas and Santa Fe in Argentina before becoming the southern and western boarder boundary with Paraguay.

The Paraguay River extends the reach of this river system through the center of Paraguay and to Brazil. Bolivia's only port, Puerto Aguirre, is the last stop on this important waterway.