Irrigating crops, producing electricity, acting as roadways for trade and travel, and even offering a sacred place for worship, rivers are the epicenter around which much of humanity lives and thrives. From the Nile in Africa, which played a vital role in the development of the Western world, to the Ganges in India, considered by Hindus to be the holiest of all rivers, here are 10 of the most important natural waterways on the planet.
Amazon, South America
Beginning in Brazil and traveling through Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean, the Amazon is perhaps the most record-breaking river in the world. It is the largest (2.7 million sq. miles), the widest (202 miles wide at its mouth; 6.8 miles wide along its path) and among the longest (4,000 miles) and deepest (300 feet in some spots). It is also called the "Ocean River" because it boasts the greatest total discharge of all rivers—between 9 million and 32 million gallons per second—which is 20 percent of the world's freshwater ocean discharge.