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Facts About the Niger River For Kids


The Niger River is the principal river of western Africa, extending about 2,600 mi. It runs in a crescent through Mali, Niger, on the border with Benin and then through Nigeria, discharging through a massive delta, known as the Niger Delta or the Oil Rivers, into the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. The Niger is the third-longest river in Africa, exceeded only by the Nile and the Congo River.

  • The Niger is called Jeliba or Joliba “great river” in Manding; Orimiri or Orimili “great water” in Igbo; Egerew n-Igerewen “river of rivers” in Tuareg; Isa Ber “big river” in Songhay; Kwara in Hausa; and Oya in Yoruba.
  • The likeliest possibility is an alteration, by influence of Latin niger “black”, of the Tuareg name egerew n-igerewen, which is used along the middle reaches of the river around Timbuktu.
  • As Timbuktu was the southern end of the principal Trans-Saharan trade route to the western Mediterranean, it was the source of most European knowledge of the region.
  • Medieval European maps applied the name Niger to the middle reaches of the river, in modern Mali, but Quorra (Kworra) to the lower reaches in modern Nigeria, as these were not recognized as being the same river.
  • It was only with the 18th century visits of Mungo Park, who travelled down the Niger River and visited the great Sahelian empires of his day, that Europeans correctly identified the course of the Niger, and extending the name to its entire course.
  • The modern nations of Nigeria and Niger take their names from the river, marking contesting national claims by colonial powers of the “Upper”, “Lower” and “Middle” Niger river basin during the Scramble for Africa at the end of the 19th century.
  • The Niger River is a relatively “clear” river, carrying only a tenth as much sediment as the Nile because the Niger’s headlands are located in ancient rocks that provide little silt.
  • The total volume of tributaries in Nigeria is six times higher than the inflow into Nigeria, with a flow near the mouth of the river standing at 177.0 km/year before the 1980s and 147.3 km/year during the 1980s.
  • The Niger takes one of the most unusual routes of any major river, a boomerang shape that baffled European geographers for two millennia.
  • Classical authors explained the summer flood by calculating the time it took for flood waters to move down a river, and calculating how long the Nile must have been for the waters to travel from a mountain range in the spring.
  • On October 24, 1946 three Frenchmen, Jean Sauvy, Pierre Ponty and moviemaker Jean Rouch, former civil servants in the African French colonies, set out to travel the entire length of the river, as no one else seemed to have done it previously.
  • In Mali the Sélingué Dam on the Sankarani River is mainly used for hydropower, but also permits irrigation.
  • The water resources of the Niger River are under pressure due to increased water abstraction for irrigation and due to impact of climate change.
  • The construction of dams for hydropower generation is underway or envisaged in order to alleviate chronic power shortages in the countries of the Niger basin.
  • In order to further coordinate their efforts, in April 2008 the riparian countries which form the Niger Basin Authority adopted a Niger Basin Water Charta, a basin-wide 30-year investment plan and a 5-year priority investment plan.