By Casey Melnick
Water: the source of life, liquid beauty, ocean sauce. I’m a huge fan of the stuff (obvious and essential need for it notwithstanding) along with its varying derivatives and all-encompassing modes. For today’s List of Seven, though, let’s dive into a particularly winding classification of water and explore the best rivers on this blue planet.
The longest river in Europe, the Volga runs nearly 2,200 miles. Considered by many to be the national river of Russia, the Volga flows through central and southern Russia before dumping into the Caspian Sea.
This certainly is a wet river, by truth and by name. The Volga’s (hydro)name derives from the Proto-Slavic word vòlga, which means wetness or moisture.
The 27th largest river in the world, the Indus is one of the longest and most economically important rivers in Asia. Over 1,900 miles long, this transboundary river originates in Tibet and empties into the Arabian sea near Pakistan’s most populous city Karachi.
Both India and the Pakistan province of Sindh get their names from the Roman word Indus (Indós in ancient Greek). When the villainous Christopher Columbus landed on American soil in 1492, thinking he reached India by sailing west, he incorrectly labeled the indigenous people as “Indians” or “Indios.”
An immensely popular and well-recognized waterway, the Nile is the longest river in Africa and quite possibly the world. (My apologies to 21st-century Amazonian-length revisionists.) Clocking in at over 4,100 miles long, the Nile is also one of the smallest rivers in the world according to annual flow. The Nile travels through eleven African countries before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.
While the English name is derived from the Greek word “Neilos,” which means a valley or river valley, the true etymology of the Nile is highly disputed due to the culturally rich and ethnically diverse history of the region.
Depending on what river expert you ask, this may just be the longest river in the world. The Amazon, found in South America, stretches from the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean. Historically believed to be at least 4,000 miles long, research in the last two decades has shown that the Amazon may be upwards of 4,400 miles long. ( Note: The marginally biased non-expert author sides slightly in favor of Amazonian length reclassification.)
River drama aside, the Amazon is stupendously impressive. It’s the largest river according to many quantitative measures, including watershed, the volume of water discharged into the ocean, and the number of tributaries.
The Amazon was originally known by Europeans as the Marañón (which the Peruvian part of the river is still known as) before later acquiring the name Rio Amazonas following a series of 16th-century native women-led attacks on European explorers.
A contrarian river, the Monongahela River (also known as the Mon) is one of the few major rivers in North America that runs from south to north. The Mon originates near the country roads of West Virginia and flows northward towards Pittsburgh (home of Primanti Brothers and confusing highways) for a length of about 130 miles.
The name “Monongahela” comes from the late 17th century and the early 18th century Unami indigenous language and translates to “Falling Banks.”
A capricious Ohioan river with a native name that aptly translates to mean “crooked river,” the Cuyahoga has a complicated and intricate past filled with dueling periods of harrowing depravity and redemptive glory. For one thing, this river has caught fire at least 14 times due to industrial pollution. It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as extensive clean-up efforts in the last 50 years culminated in the waterway winning “2019 River of the Year” from the American Rivers conservation association.
Sometimes downtrodden, often irreverent, and forever resilient, this 85-mile-long river is both the physical and spiritual embodiment of Northeast Ohio.
Unsurprisingly, Weezer frontman and pop-rock mastermind Rivers Cuomo clocks in at number one in the debate of the world’s greatest rivers. A compact but highly prolific body of water, Cuomo has a vast and sprawling discography that rivals most major channels. Astonishingly, at 52 years old, Cuomo is still in his formative stages, especially when compared to other legendary rivers.
Cuomo, who is a multi-talented vocalist and instrumentalist, is the only member on this list who has penned numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful studio albums.
While accounts differ as to the exact etymology of his first name, historians believe that Cuomo’s mother named him because he was born between the East and Hudson rivers in Manhattan or because she could hear a river outside her hospital window.