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  • The Nile River has provided fertile land, transportation, food, and freshwater to Egypt for more than 5,000 years. Today, 95% of Egypt’s population continues to live along its banks.
    Where does the Nile begin? Where does it end? Watch this video, from Nat Geo WILD’s “Destination Wild” series, to find out. For an even deeper look at the Nile, use our vocabulary list and explore our “geo-tour” of the Nile to understand the geography of the river and answer the questions in the Questions tab. 
    1. Where is the source, or headwaters, of the Nile River?

      The streams of Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest are probably the most remote sources of the Nile.

      The snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains are another one of the remote sources of the Nile. The Rwenzori Mountains, sometimes nicknamed the “Mountains of the Moon,” straddle the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.

      Many geographers also consider Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa, to be a source of the Nile. The most significant outflow from Lake Victoria, winding northward through Uganda, is called the “Victoria Nile.”

    2. Can you find a waterfall on the Nile River?

      As it twists more than 6,500 kilometers (4,200 miles) through Africa, the Nile has dozens of small and large waterfalls. The most significant waterfall on the Nile is probably Murchison Falls, Uganda. Here, the Victoria Nile plunges 43 meters (141 feet) through a narrow gap into Lake Albert. The north-flowing stream is then called the Albert Nile.

    3. What types of wetlands do you think the Nile supports?

      The Nile supports freshwater marshes and swamps as it winds its way north, and brackish wetlands near its delta on the Mediterranean Sea. The largest wetland area on the Nile is the Sudd, a shallow, marshy flood plain in South Sudan.

    4. Can you identify a tributary of the Nile River?

      The two main tributaries of the Nile are the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The White Nile can be traced from Lake Victoria. The Blue Nile drains Lake Tana, in the Ethiopian highlands.

    5. Where is a major confluence on the Nile?

      The confluence of the Blue and White Nile rivers in Khartoum, Sudan, is the most significant confluence on the Nile.

    6. Are there rapids on the Nile?

      Yes, the Nile’s most significant rapids are the six “Cataracts of the Nile.” The Cataracts of the Nile are a long, shallow stretch of the river between Khartoum, Sudan, and Aswan, Egypt.

    7. Is there a dam on the Nile? Where?

      The most massive dam on the Nile is the Aswan Dam, constructed by Egypt in the 1960s. The Aswan Dam created Lake Nasser, an enormous reservoir that is one of the largest manmade lakes in the world.

    8. How has the Nile’s flood plain influenced agriculture in the region?

      Floods carry sediment rich in nutrients. The predictable flooding of the Nile River has made its banks the center of Egyptian agriculture for thousands of years.

    9. Can you identify a major port on the Nile River?

      The port of Alexandria has been Egypt’s most important port for more than 2,000 years. Through the Nile, the port links the interior of Africa with the Mediterranean Sea.

    10. What is one theory about how the Nile delta got its name?

      The Nile delta may have been named by ancient Greek geographers after its triangle shape—which resembles the Greek letter delta (Δ). 

    11. What is the “Nile fan”?

      The Nile fan is an enormous, underwater alluvial fan formed at the river’s mouth. The Nile fan began forming more than a million years ago, as the Nile began to deposit sediment and silt at its end. Today, the Nile fan covers an area of about 70,000 square kilometers (27,027 square miles).

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    agriculture Noun

    the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

    Encyclopedic Entry: agriculture
    alluvial fan Noun

    fan-shaped deposit of eroded material, usually sediment and sand.

    Encyclopedic Entry: alluvial fan
    bank Noun

    a slope of land adjoining a body of water, or a large elevated area of the sea floor.

    brackish water Noun

    salty water, usually a mixture of seawater and freshwater.

    cataract Noun

    waterfall or section of whitewater rapids.

    confluence Noun

    place where two rivers join and flow together.

    dam Noun

    structure built across a river or other waterway to control the flow of water.

    delta Noun

    the flat, low-lying plain that sometimes forms at the mouth of a river from deposits of sediments.

    Encyclopedic Entry: delta
    flood Noun

    overflow of a body of water onto land.

    Encyclopedic Entry: flood
    flood plain Noun

    flat area alongside a stream or river that is subject to flooding.

    Encyclopedic Entry: flood plain
    freshwater marsh Noun

    wetland ecosystem dominated by grasses that develops around lakes or rivers.

    gap Noun

    steep-sided opening through a mountain ridge.

    Encyclopedic Entry: gap
    headwater Noun

    source of a river.

    highlands Plural Noun

    plateau or elevated region of land.

    lake Noun

    body of water surrounded by land.

    Encyclopedic Entry: lake
    mountain Noun

    landmass that forms as tectonic plates interact with each other.

    mouth Noun

    place where a river empties its water. Usually rivers enter another body of water at their mouths.

    Encyclopedic Entry: mouth
    nutrient Noun

    substance an organism needs for energy, growth, and life.

    Encyclopedic Entry: nutrient
    port Noun

    place on a body of water where ships can tie up or dock and load and unload cargo.

    Encyclopedic Entry: port
    rapids Noun

    areas of fast-flowing water in a river or stream that is making a slight descent.

    Encyclopedic Entry: rapids
    reservoir Noun

    natural or man-made lake.

    Encyclopedic Entry: reservoir
    river Noun

    large stream of flowing fresh water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: river
    sediment Noun

    solid material transported and deposited by water, ice, and wind.

    Encyclopedic Entry: sediment
    silt Noun

    small sediment particles.

    Encyclopedic Entry: silt
    source Noun

    beginning of a stream, river, or other flow of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: source
    stream Noun

    body of flowing water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: stream
    swamp Noun

    land permanently saturated with water and sometimes covered with it.

    Encyclopedic Entry: swamp
    tributary Noun

    stream that feeds, or flows, into a larger stream.

    Encyclopedic Entry: tributary
    waterfall Noun

    flow of water descending steeply over a cliff. Also called a cascade.

    Encyclopedic Entry: waterfall
    wetland Noun

    area of land covered by shallow water or saturated by water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: wetland