The deepest and most dangerous rivers in the world

The Amazon river meandering through the rainforest
The Amazon passes through the heart of South America and is the fifth-deepest river in the world | Image: Shutterstock

Beau Ouimette and Rick Edwards Sky HISTORY's River Hunters are back for a brand new three-part special. Join the dynamic duo as they search the UK’s waterways for archaeological finds, telling the story of our past, that has, until now been hidden in the depths.

There are approximately 1,500 rivers in the UK, comprising of 200,000 kilometres of watercourses. The longest of these is the River Severn at 224 miles (260 km) and the second-longest, and the deepest, is the River Thames.

But when it comes to deep rivers coursing through the rest of the world, we have a lot of catching up to do. The River Thames (at London Bridge, where the tides are measured) has a depth of just 66 feet (20 metres). That doesn't really compare to the deepest rivers in the world.

Let’s dive in!

6. Mekong

The Mekong river is 328 feet (99.9 metres) deep, so we’re already three times deeper than the Thames and we’re barely even started! At 2,700 miles (4,350 km) long the Mekong would have passed through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam before the Severn even had a chance to put on its wellies.

5. Amazon

Coming in at five is the Amazon which is 330 feet (100 metres) deep, only a fraction more than the Mekong thanks to some fairly generous rounding. It passes from the Andes in Peru via Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Brazil, before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.

It is also the longest river in the world (depending on who you ask) at a staggering 4,345 miles (6,992 km). However, the Amazon is certainly the overall winner when it comes to discharging volumes of water with 209,000 m³/s. The Thames comes in with a rather embarrassing maximum of 370 m³/s.

4. Zambezi

With a maximum depth of about 381 feet (116 metres) the Zambezi River in Africa is home to Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It courses through Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.

The 1,599 miles (2,574 km) long river may not be the longest, but it’s the only one on this list that inspired a 1982 hit by The Piranhas, which reached number 17 on the UK Charts.

3. Danube

The third deepest river in the world is the only representative from Europe and also inspired a song of its own. The (blue) Danube lent its name to Johann Strauss's most famous waltz in 1866. Its depth of 584 feet (178 m) is certainly impressive and it’s also the second-longest river in Europe at 2,857 km (1,775 miles).

And the records keep coming for the Danube as it passes through ten countries - Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine - making it the most dominant in terms of states or nations that it can call home.

2. Yangtze

On the opposite side of the equation the Yangtze, the second deepest river in the world at 656 feet (199.9 m) which is also the longest river to flow through just one country, China. And speaking of ‘longest’, it’s the third-longest in the world at 6,300 km (3,914 miles) and the longest in Asia.

It’s not just a bunch of water coursing through land either, the Yangtze supports about 40% of China’s GDP and if you’re a fan of hydropower stations, the Three Gorges Dam is the biggest in the world.

1. Congo

Right at the top, in the number one spot, the Congo (formerly Zaire) is the second-longest in Africa (after the Nile) at 2,715 miles (4,370 km) and passes through six countries: Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.

But it’s at the top of this list because it’s the deepest river in the world at 720 feet (219 m). That makes it over ten times deeper than the Thames, meaning that if you dropped two St Paul's Cathedrals into the Congo on top of each other, only half of one would stick out of the water! Please do not try this at home.