The Euphrates River, Syria - October 16th, 2008
Detail of the confluence of the Euphrates and Khabur Rivers
The Euphrates is the western of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia (the other being the Tigris) which flows from Anatolia. The river is approximately 2,781 kilometers (1,730 mi) long.
In the main image on the left, we can see a part of the Euphrates River that runs down from Turkey and across Syria. The Turkish-Syrian border is visible in the upper portion of the image as a change in terrain and color. On the left we have Lake Assad (Buhayrat al Asad) in Syria, and in the top left corner, the Ataturk Dam in Turkey. Slightly right of the center is the confluence of the Euphrates and Khabur Rivers, near the town of Busayrah. Along the river we see green patches hugging the banks; these is mostly from agriculture.
The Euphrates River is formed by the union of two branches: the Kara Su and the Murat Nehri. Their courses run fairly parallel in a westerly direction until they unite near the city of Keban, at an elevation of about 610 m (2,000 ft) above sea level. From this point on, the combined streams form the Euphrates proper.
The upper reaches of the Euphrates flow through steep canyons and gorges, southeast across Syria, and through Iraq. The Khabur (see close-up) and the Balikh River join the Euphrates in eastern Syria. The Euphrates finally emerges on the Syrian plain at a point north of the site of ancient Carchemish (modern Jerablus). Both rivers have their origins in Turkey.
Downstream, through its whole length, the Euphrates has no other notable tributaries. North of Basra, in southern Iraq, the river merges with the Tigris to form the Shatt al-Arab, this in turn empties into the Persian Gulf.
The river used to divide into many channels at Basra, forming an extensive marshland, but the marshes were largely drained by the Saddam Hussein government in the 1990s as a means of driving out the rebellious Marsh Arabs. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the drainage policy has been reversed, but it remains to be seen whether the marshes will recover.
The Euphrates is only navigable by very shallow-draft boats, which can reach as far as the Iraqi city of Hit, located 1,930 kilometers (1,200 mi) upstream and only 60 meters (200 ft) above sea level. Above Hit, however, shoals and rapids make the river commercially unnavigable. Its annual inundation, caused by snow melt in the mountains of northeastern Turkey, has been partly checked by new dams and reservoirs in the upper reaches. An 885-kilometer (550 mi) canal links the Euphrates to the Tigris to serve as a route for river barges.