Mother Rivers of myanmar

burma is a country rich of rivers and delta regions. There are four foremost rivers crossing the country, comprising Irrawaddy, Thanlwin, Sittaung and Chindwin river.

1. Burma river: Irrawaddy

Aka Ayeyarwaddy, it’s Myanmar's largest river (2,170km long) and most important waterway. Its drainage basin of about 413,710 square km covers a significant part of the country. Previous railway and automobiles, the Irrawaddy was known as “Road to Mandalay”. In fact, it plays a vital role in trade, transport and irrigation of myanmar.

start from Kachin state at the influence of the Nmai Hka and Mali Hka rivers, the Irrawaddy runs through the center of burma, dissects the country from north to south, then empties via the nine armed Irrawaddy delta into Adaman Sea (Indian Ocean). Both the branches earn their sources in the Himalayan glaciers. The eastern Nmai arises in the Languela glacier, north of Putao.

The Irrawaddy is full of sandbanks and islands, makes navigation on it fastidious. However, it’s calm the significant waterway for big vessels moving 1,600km from the ocean to Myikyina. For a long time, Inwa bridge is the sole bridge spanning over the Irrawaddy; but now, there are two.

The Irrawaddy gives its names to a dolphin, Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevistosus), and a shark, Irrawaddy River sharks, which are endangered species found it. Actually Irrawaddy dolphin isn’t a fresh water dolphin totally, as it is discovered at sea as well.

Irrawaddy cruise is one of must-do trip in myanmar, especially the stretch between Mandalay and Bagan, the section rich in cultural treasures and including several former imperial capitals. The best time to take this cruise is October-March, when river levels and the humidity are lower.

Irrawaddy river, the section of Mingun

2. Myanmar river: Thanlwin (Salween)

The Thanlwin river, so-called Salween as its former name, is 2815km long. It rises in Tibetan Plateau at 5,450m, flows through Yunnan, then leaves China, meanders through myanmar and Thailand, and finally empties into the Andaman Sea. Steep canyon walls line this swift, powerful river. It is only navigable up to 90 km from the mouth, and only in the rainy season.

Salween river runs parallel to the mighty Mekong river for much of its course and forms part of the border between myanmar and Thailand. Its extensive drainage basin supports a biodiversity comparable with the Mekong. The river is home to over 7,000 species of plants and 80 uncommon or threatened animals and fish, and owns the world’s greatest diversity of turtles including the Giant Asian Pond Terrapin and large Headed Turtle. The citizen who reside along the Salween’s riverside are relatively isolated from the rest of the world.

The Salween is one of longest undammed river in the world. However, burma is planning to build TaSang Dam and several others on it.

Thanlwin river - the section of Mawlamyine

3.Myanmar river: Sittaung

Lying in east-central burma, Sittaung river originate northeast of Yamethin town on the edge of the Shan plateau, flows south for 420km prior emptying Gulf of Martaban of the Andaman Sea.

The extensive Sittaung River valley is settled between the forested Bago Mountains on the west and the steep Shan Plateau on the east. It holds the principal roads and railways from Yangon (Rangoon) to Mandalay as well as the major towns of Bago, Taungoo, Yamethin, and Pyinmana.

Though running through pretty flat areas, the Sittaung has a infamous tidal bore at its mouth which has precluded any but very small crafts navigating on it. The river is navigable for 40 km year-round and 90 km during three months of the year. Strong currents make it less valuable for transport in eastern burma. Its basin also does not own the identical richness for agriculture as the Irrawaddy because there is no soil flowing down from the Shan Hills.

The Sittaung is used to float timber, particularly teak, southward for export. Its lower part is linked by a canal to the Bago river. This canal was constructed to bypass the tidal bore that afflicted the mouth of the Sittaung. It once provided the only route from Yangon to Taungoo.

Sittaung river

4. Burma river: Chindwin

The Chindwin river is the biggest tributary of the Irrawaddy. Deriving from the vast Hukawng valley of Kachin state, it flows 840km inside myanmar completely from north to south, prior joining the broad Irrawaddy. The river proudly runs through misty, lush mountains and fascinating towns and villages, a region of abundant natural resources and fertile meadows.

The Chinwin Valley, where Chindwin’s courses run over, is dominated by dense forests and lofty mountains too. Thanks to the difficulty of access, much of it remains untouched. The natives has an unspoiled culture, with the towns and villages spread along the river bank beside marvelous pagodas such as Thanboddhay pagoda of Monywa, and the cave pagodas of Hpowintaung and Shwebataung.

Chindwin cruise is one of wonderful trips in burma river. This trip could depart from Hkamti to Monywa (but permission to enter Hkamti is needed), or shorter from Homalin to Monywa. The best time if after the monsoon season.


* The Map of Myanmar's Rivers


* Myanmar's rivers and their numbers

RiverLength(km)Drainage area (km2)OutflowCountries in the drainage basinmyanmar state in the drainage basin
Irrawady2,170413,710Andaman SeamyanmarKachin, Mandalay
Thanlwin2,815324,000Andaman SeaChina, burma, ThailandMon state
Sittaung420NAAndaman SeamyanmarBago state
Chindwin1,207114,000Irrawaddy RiverburmaKachin state
Mekong4,350795,00South China SeaChina, myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, VietnamShan state

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