Rufiji River

The Rufiji River lies entirely within Tanzania. It is also the largest and longest river in the country. The river is formed by the confluence of the Kilombero and Luwegu rivers. It is approximately 600 kilometres (370 mi) long, with its source in southwestern Tanzania and its mouth on the Indian Ocean opposite Mafia Island across the Mafia Channel, in Pwani Region. Its principal tributary is the Great Ruaha River. It is navigable for approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi).

Rufiji river in Selous
Map of the Rufiji River drainage basin. The separate, endorheic Lake Sulunga basin is shown in green.
RegionPwani Region
RegionMorogoro Region
RegionIringa Region
Physical characteristics
SourceGreat Ruaha River
2nd sourceKilombero River
  locationMorogoro Region
3rd sourceLuwegu River
  locationMorogoro Region
MouthIndian Ocean
Pwani Region
7°46′26″S 39°21′50″E
Length600 km (370 mi)
Basin size177,429 square kilometres (68,506 sq mi)

The Rufiji river is approximately 200 kilometres (120 mi) south of Dar es Salaam. The river's delta contains the largest mangrove forest in eastern Africa.[1]


A branch of ancient sea routes led down the East African coast called "Azania" by the Greeks and Romans in the 1st century CE as described in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (and, very probably, Chinese: 澤散 in the 3rd century by the Chinese),[2] at least as far as the port known to the Romans as Rhapta, which was probably located in the delta of the Rufiji River in modern Tanzania.[3]

During the First World War, from October 1914 to July 1915, the river delta was the scene of a protracted naval operation. These were the attempts, and later achievement, by the Royal Navy to neutralize and destroy the German cruiser Konigsberg.


The catchment basin for the Rufiji River complex is 177,429 square kilometres (68,506 sq mi).[4]

Rufiji Basin catchment area
River Area
of area
of run-off
Great Ruaha      83,970 47 15
Kilombero 39,990 23 62
Luwegu 26,300 15 18
Rufiji (lower river) 27,160 15 5
Total       177,429 100 100

Hydroelectric Project

Tanzania president John Magufuli has approved the construction of a controversial[5][6] new dam and power station on the river at Stiegler's Gorge.[7] The power station is expected to provide 2,100 megawatts of electricity, more than triple Tanzania's existing installed hydropower capacity which is only 562 megawatts.[8] Construction of the dam started on July 26, 2019, and it is expected be ready by 2022.[9]


  1. "Downstream and Coastal Impacts of Damming and Water Abstraction in Africa", Environmental Management, authored by Maria Snoussi, Johnson Kitheka, Yohanna Shaghude, Alioune Kane, Russell Arthurton, Martin Le Tissier, and Hassan Virji, 2007, volume 39, page 589
  2. "The Peoples of the West". from the Weilue 魏略 by Yu Huan 魚豢. Translated by Hill, John E. University of Washington. September 2004. Retrieved 2009-04-18.
  3. "The Egypto-Graeco-Romans and Panchea/Azania: sailing in the Erythraean Sea." Felix A. Chami. In: Society for Arabian Studies Monographs 2 Trade and Travel in the Red Sea Region. Proceedings of Red Sea Project I held in the British Museum October 2002, pp. 93-104. Edited by Paul Lunde and Alexandra Porter. ISBN 1-84171-622-7.
  4. Arvidson, Anders; et al. (May 2009). "Initial Assessment of Socioeconomic and Environmental Risks and Opportunities of Large-scale Biofuels Production in the Rufiji District" (PDF). SEKAB BioEnergy (T) Ltd. p. 23.
  5. Hoag, Heather J.; Öhman, May-Britt (2008). "Turning water into power: Debates over the Development of Tanzania's Rufiji River Basin, 1945-1985". Technology and Culture. 49 (3): 624–651. doi:10.1353/tech.0.0061. PMID 18831291. S2CID 27222691.
  6. Siderius, Christian; et al. (2021). "Chapter 6: High Stakes Decisions Under Uncertainty: Dams, Development and Climate Change in the Rufiji River Basin". In Conway, Declan; Vincent, Katharine (eds.). Climate Risk in Africa: Adaptation and Resilience (PDF). Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillian. pp. 93–113. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-61160-6_6. ISBN 978-3-030-61159-0. S2CID 234340454.
  7. "Tanzania to Construct Hydropower Plant on National Reserve". Voice of America. July 26, 2019.
  8. Tairo, Apolinari (July 26, 2019). "Tanzania launches Rufiji power plant". The EastAfrican.
  9. Takouleu, Jean Marie (24 July 2019). "Stiegler's Gorge dam construction begins on July 26". Afrik 21. Archived from the original on 25 July 2019.

Further reading

  • Chami, F. A. 1999. "The Early Iron Age on Mafia island and its relationship with the mainland." Azania Vol. XXXIV 1999, pp. 1–10.
  • Chami, Felix A. 2002. "The Egypto-Graeco-Romans and Panchea/Azania: sailing in the Erythraean Sea." In: Society for Arabian Studies Monographs 2 Trade and Travel in the Red Sea Region. Proceedings of Red Sea Project I held in the British Museum October 2002, pp. 93–104. Edited by Paul Lunde and Alexandra Porter. ISBN 1-84171-622-7.
  • Miller, J. Innes. 1969. Chapter 8: "The Cinnamon Route". In: The Spice Trade of the Roman Empire. Oxford: University Press. ISBN 0-19-814264-1
  • Ray, Himanshu Prabha, ed. 1999. Archaeology of Seafaring: The Indian Ocean in the Ancient Period. Pragati Publications, Delhi.
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