The Niger River during flood season – October 23rd, 2008
The Niger River is the principal river of western Africa, extending about 4180 km (2600 mi). It is visible in the image from the left to the center bottom. Its drainage basin is 2,117,700 square kilometres (817,600 sq mi) in area.
The source of the Niger River is in the Guinea Highlands in southeastern Guinea. 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 of the Oil Rivers, into the Gulf of Guinea.
The Niger is the third-longest river in Africa, exceeded only by the Nile and the Congo River. Its main tributary is the Benue River, visible on the right side of the image. The Benue River is approximately 1,400 km long and is almost entirely navigable during the summer months. As a result, it is an important transportation route in the regions through which it flows.
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. Like the Nile, the Niger floods yearly; this begins in September, peaks in November, and finishes by May. In the image, taken on October 19th, 2008, we can clearly see the brownish waters of the flood season, left uncovered by the clouds veiling other parts of the region.
The northern part of the river, known as the Niger bend, is an important area because it is the closest major river and source of water to that part of the Sahara desert. This made it the focal point of trade across the western Sahara, and the centre of the Sahelian kingdoms of Mali and Gao. The Niger Bend, mostly golden-brown
An unusual feature of the river is the Niger Inland Delta, which forms where its gradient suddenly decreases. The result is a region of braided streams, marshes, and lakes the size of Belgium; the seasonal floods make the Delta extremely productive for both fishing and agriculture.